Raising Healthy Kids

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So much of my work is focused on helping girls to embrace healthy living. Have you checked out my charity, Play Like A Girl!? It's pretty special!

But I, myself, have two wonderful sons, aged 10 and 11 (shown above). So today, I wanted to dive into the flipside of the equation.

How can we as mothers --and, women in general-- support young boys in making healthy choices?

Like their fathers, adolescent boys are much less likely to see a physician regularly despite having as many health issues and concerns as adolescent girls. This is related to both individual factors and the health care system itself, which is not always encouraging and set up to provide comprehensive male health care. 

Therefore, it's up to us to have the knowledge and skills to address concerns relevant to our sons.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a list of ways parents can help raise safe and healthy boys (and girls!). Included on this list are several tips to help you guide your sons in making choices that will lead to healthier lives.

Here are my 5 top tips for raising healthy boys:

1. Provide healthy meals and snacks.

Eating right will help provide boys the nutrients they need to have energy, build strong bones, and fight diseases and conditions. For babies, breastfeeding is best. As boys grow, help them choose healthy meals and snacks. Pay attention to what and how much they eat. As you monitor their eating behaviors and help them stay on track, you may also uncover some hidden problems.

2. Keep boys active.

Boys have an unbelievable energy! Encourage them to let it all out. Daily. Several times a day. Your sons should be active at least 60 minutes a day. Include activities that raise their breathing and heart rates and that strengthen their muscles and bones. Find fun, safe and active things you can do with your sons to help keep the whole family healthy. Recently, my family went horseback riding in the Tennessee mountains. It was a lot of fun in addition to its health-promoting benefits. Here are a few picture:

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3. Monitor activities.

Cell phones have contributed greatly to a steep surge in cyber bullying in America. And, social media has made it even easier to target others with teasing and name-calling because it can act as a facade for the perpetrator. Kids learn from family, friends, media, school and more.

Know who your boys spend time with, what they are doing and whether their activities are age-appropriate. Discourage TV viewing for children under 2 years of age, and limit TV viewing to no more than 2 hours per day for children 2 years and older. Know how your sons are influenced. Invite their friends over so that you can observe them at play or in conversation. Ascertain who among their peers owns guns or other possible weapons. And, do collect cell phones when your sons gets home from school (especially since the highest purpose for cell phones is safety anyway!).

4. Provide love and support.

Boys need the support and love of family and friends -- especially, their fathers and other males. Talk to your son to help him understand how he can be healthy, safe and happy. Find out what's going on with him and how he is making decisions and handling problems. Respond to his physical and emotional needs. It's important for boys to develop in a safe, loving and secure environment where they feel the validation of being seen and heard.

5. Talk open, honestly and regularly.

Advocate for and create an open and trusting environment in your home as well as in your relationship with your sons. Boys desire to be heard. This requires that parents nurture an atmosphere that allows their sons to openly discuss issues that are important to them. Regular conversation opens the door and keeps it open for honest dialogue. The process of sharing should be reciprocal so share something from your youth to help relate with your child in a better, deeper way. The more boys can trust us, the more likely it is that we can trust they're telling us the things we need to know.

Do you have sons or young men in your life? How are you keeping them safe and healthy? What challenges do you see them facing? Please share your experiences with us below in the Comments section.

Dr. Kim

Dr. Kimberly S. Clay, aka Dr. Kim, is Executive Director and founder of Dallas-based charity, Play Like A Girl!®. On a mission to inspire women and girls across the globe to live a happy, healthy and active lifestyle, Dr. Kim has set out to finally triumph in her own struggle with obesity by creating what she calls her "best me yet" in 2014-15. Sisterbration is the space she has dedicated to documenting the journey and her musings.

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