A question recently came up at a workshop I was facilitating. The question was: “How do we tell parents that they are not making the right choices when it comes to their child’s diet and health?” The answer is: you don’t. I know it can be difficult to see children who are not as active as others or eat foods for lunch that you wouldn’t choose for them. However, it is important to remember that as much as we may disagree with choices made, they are the parents’ choices to make. The exception to this would be if there is a situation in which a child is being physically harmed, and you need to use your best judgment, consult with your supervisor and with your licensing regulation as to what the steps would be.
So, what can you do? You can advocate and educate, and you can make positive choices for those children while they are in your care. Advocating for the children might look like organizing a family dinner night once a month in your program. It could also include finding out if there are agencies in your community to partner with to get coupons or gift certificates to healthy eating establishments that you could offer to the families in your program.
Educating can involve both the children and the families. With the children, doing activities, having discussions or going on field trips around healthy practices can be a good foundation with which to start. With the parents, you could distribute articles on simple fitness tips. You could also compile easy and healthy recipes to send home. Another approach is to provide information on resources available to them, such as My Plate or WIC. All these strategies can help the parents make informed decisions for their children’s healthy lifestyles.
Finally, the one way you can make sure children are getting healthy foods and staying active is by having those things as a part of your program. That way you know that during the time they are in your care, they are being fed well and are getting opportunities for fitness. This may require looking at your schedule or menu, being reflective and making changes when you are able.
In the end, everyone has the same goal, which is to do the best for the children as possible. There will be times that it is harder for parents, as well as you and your program, to reach this lofty goal. But, as long as that is the goal, we can all work together to get us through those harder times. Do you have any ideas of how you have advocated or educated around healthy practices in your programs? I’d love to hear about them!