Model Health For Your Kids: Put Well-Being First And To-Do List Second

As educators and parents, we are often at a loss as to how to help our children. More and more we see how trauma and dysregulation impact them negatively. We try to soothe, cajole, convince, manipulate, force, explain, etc. We want them to feel alright and know that everything will be okay.

But resolving trauma and truly embodying self-regulation is an inside job. To teach children how to meet their fears and feelings in a healthy way, we must be regulated and model metabolizing our own experiences. To connect them to their inner health forces, we must meet them, as we must learn to meet ourselves, with authentic presence and love.

In his article, “How to Build a Culture of Good Health,” Dr. Gabor Maté, author of When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection, reminds us that we must first look at and heal ourselves. To create an environment of health for our children and to make conscious choices that serve our higher intentions, we must resolve our own imprints.

Adults need to know, even if their physicians often do not, that their health issues are rarely isolated manifestations. Any symptom, any illness is also an opportunity to consider where our lives may be out of balance, where our childhood coping patterns have become maladaptive, exacting costs on our physical well-being. When we take on too much stress, whether at work or in our personal lives, when we are not able to say no, inevitably our bodies will say it for us. We need to be very honest with ourselves, very compassionate, but very thorough in considering how our childhood programming still runs our lives, to our detriment.

To embrace our own personal growth and to access the miraculous metabolic forces of our own health system, we need to grant ourselves the time and the space to process our own mental-emotional-energetic experiences. To model and give healthy love to our children, we must first give it to ourselves.

In whatever way resonates with you, says Maté, “Give yourself, as best you can, what your parents would have loved to grant you but probably could not: full-hearted attention, full- minded awareness, and compassion. Make gifting yourself with these qualities your daily practice.”

I believe that to prevent chronic stress from continuing to make us and our children depressed, anxious, and sick, we must intentionally hold our health as first and our to-do list as second. We must stop regulating through consumption and practice healthful self- care instead.

And yes, to do so is challenging because we live in, as Maté notes, “a materialistic culture (that) teaches its members that their value depends on what they produce, achieve, or consume rather than on their human beingness. Many of us believe that we must continually prove and justify our worthiness, that we must keep having and doing to justify our existence.”

But for our children’s sake, it’s time to re-prioritize and reorganize our lives accordingly.

Leah Kalish, MA, is a founder of the yoga in education movement. She trains teachers nationwide in how to more effectively engage the whole child, enhance social-emotional competence, and improve wellness by integrating play, movement and mindfulness. PreK-G5 training offered on May 14-15, 2016 in Westboro, MA.

See also:
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