Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Heart of the Family

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

The Heart of the Family

The heart of the family is nurtured at the dinner table in many ways. Physical and emotional patterns and attitudes of a lifetime are established and strengthened during mealtimes with people whom children love and who love them. Dinner together was an absolute must when my children were growing up, and they have carried on the tradition with their own young families. It truly was the heart of our family’s interaction about all kinds of subjects.

One of the topics for exploration in families could be a health plan for the entire family which could evolve through conversations that begin at mealtime. Knowledge about health, wellness and nutrition can be shared, explained, and modeled so that kids learn to live with intention concerning their future health.

Some of the heart tips suggested by Tara Winslow, RN, Heart Failure Educator at the Albemarle Hospital are:
  • Your heart is a muscle that needs 60 minutes of exercise every day.

  • Salt shouldn’t be added to food at the table.

  • Fish has healthy oils that keep your heart healthy.

  • Family walks will help everybody and can be fun too.

  • Kids can help in the kitchen and learn many life skills.

  • New foods should be tried often because taste buds change often.

  • Baked foods are better than fried for your body.

  • Kids should plan family meals and help to cook.

  • Kids’ health is their responsibility too.

Awareness about health issues and skills for staying healthy can be taught at home and re-enforced through programs offered at school and at Port Discover. February is heart month and the Kinectic Kids program sponsored by the Albemarle Hospital Foundation presents events like “Heart Smart,” “Keeping the Beat,” and “Body Check” where kids learn about monitoring their heart rate, taking their blood pressure, and the importance of exercise. Many future quality of life determining decisions will be based on children’s knowledge of science and health.

A recent report of the Foundation of Child Development shows that 22% of children in the U.S. will live in poverty this year. That is the highest rate in decades and leaves families at risk for not being able to provide the nutrition needed for growing bodies and brains. The cost of food is rising dramatically and will likely get worse as the cost of oil increases. As time goes by, the emphasis on health and wellness will be even stronger. It is crucial that children be taught how to make good choices concerning their own health.

All agencies dealing with children must recognize that students’ physical, mental, social, emotional health are tied to academic performance. Educators are now paying more attention to the direct effect health has on test scores, but we should make sure that parents, health professionals, and educators collaborate to strengthen the well-being of the whole child. Only when we focus on the whole child will the problems such as low graduation rate, truancy, and poor performance be solved. At the heart of that effort is the education provided by the family at the dinner table.

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