The number-one role model for a child when it comes to living healthy is the parent. In this case, the cliche proves true – monkey sees, monkey definitely does. That’s why it’s important to prioritize wellness from the very beginning, says Susie Ellis, president of SpaFinder Wellness.
“Healthy habits are formed at an early age. If young children see mom and dad eating healthy, exercising, practicing good sleep habits and managing stress in positive ways – and if these activities are done together as family – healthy living will be natural for the child.”
Ellis’ organization has been tracking trends in family wellness since 2012 and has seen a strong uptick in parents who are prioritizing health. But, she says, “wellness” means many different things to many different people. Besides a good diet and physical activity, families are focusing on environmental issues, meditation, and even spa!
In fact, there are a lot of ways you can live a healthy life with your loved ones.
Hitting the road opens you up to shared discovery – the opportunity to explore new ground and build unforgettable experiences. That, explains family travel specialist Christine Tibbetts, is important for bonding.
“It’s almost like having a secret,” says Tibbetts. “The relationship between generations [when you travel] strengthens in ways quite different from the top-down style of adult teaching child.”
Tibbetts, who blogs for TravelingMom.com and runs her own travel radio show, is the mother of six and grandmother to more than 12. Her family has traveled to places like Germany and Peru.
“So many destinations accommodate all ages,” she says. “Little kids on stand-up paddleboards with an adult, fat-tired buggies for pushing elders in beach sand. Finding options for everyone is vital.”
Spas across the country are making relaxation a family affair. At the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines in Austin, Spa Django’s youth menu includes massages, facials and salon services for kids and teens. Families also have run of the spa’s locker room amenities once a week.
Spa-ing together is all about renewing the dynamic of your group, says Lucia Rodriguez Amasio, director of Laniwai Spa at Aulani, a Disney Resort.
“Being together in a serene environment and experiencing positive healing clarifies the mind and soothes the body.”
Aulani’s spa has a separate entrance for families, and programming accommodates many ages. The Makana, a soothing therapy for parents and infants, includes a treatment for mom and dad as well as a lesson in the art of baby massage.
Working out together not only promotes closeness, it also creates healthier kids and improves social skills and self-esteem, says Len Saunders, author of Keeping Kids Fit.
“I find that simple activities everyone can participate in make sense. For example, older and younger generations can walk together.”
Kara Douglass Thom, a former fitness instructor turned author, says making workouts fun is the key.
“Consider obstacle courses, lawn sports, yard games, and scavenger hunts to get little legs moving,” Thom advises. “When parents and kids are active together, they create a healthy environment to address body issues. An active family tends to focus on what the body can do versus how the body looks.”
To get kids excited about dinnertime, Amy Hanten, cookbook author and founder of TheCookingMom.com, recommends getting them involved.
“My daughter helps me plan the menu and cook, and my son sets the table. He also loves music, so sometimes he picks out special tunes.”
Just remember to keep things real, she says.
“Keep dinners easy and stress-free. Use your slow cooker. Toss together a salad or make a casserole. If I have time on a Sunday, I’ll make one or two for the week.”
Incorporating more healthy ingredients into your meal is easy, too, according to Susie Garcia, registered dietitian and nutritionist.
“Grind two cups of spinach and add it to pasta sauce or combine cooked and pureed cauliflower with mashed potatoes,” says Garcia. “If you are introducing something new, like quinoa, you might want to mix it with something familiar, like rice, the first time you serve it.”
“The ritual of sharing a meal together offers parents many teaching moments,” she adds. “Whether it’s talking about the nutrients in the meal or improving manners.”