The word balance conjures up the image of scales, of an effortless pose held by a ballet dancer or gymnast, whereas balance does not have to look neat and tidy to be there.
Have a look at this rock balancing guy if you want to see what's possible! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puv_cHwT22Y
A friend mentioned that for full balance your child also needs a healthy ‘balanced’ diet and lots and lots of love and support. I completely agree but these are not things which are easy to put a time frame on, so are not main focus of this article.
This article looks at balancing in bits, breaking things down rather than always aiming to balance everything at once.
We all make choices and decisions depending on where we are at in the moment. Looking back at these, or choosing to regret a decision later, just causes more imbalances.
The question to ask is what do you, and your family feel comfortable with?
Below is a very easy (and completely unbalanced health wise!) meal planner for the week, no real effort is required here, other than picking up a phone and possibly a short drive to pick the stuff up.
Wednesday Fried chicken, mashed potato and gravy
Thursday Fried rice and sweet and sour pork
Friday Fish and chips
You know that this is not the healthiest option for you and your family. Even if you can convince yourself that the lettuce in the burger, and salad in the kebab is healthy, overall you know that such a diet is going to cause your child health problems in the future.
There may be a reason that you have such a plan. Maybe you work shifts, are currently renovating your kitchen, or just don’t know how to cook!
The guilt feeling comes when you want to do something about it, but don’t know how.
Most professionals would suggest a long term solution, one where you go on a cooking course, or start to order in a food bag, or other planned meal option; however, if now is not the right time for you to make such a change, then you can reduce your guilt by adding some simple snacks on.
By adding on extra snacks you can turn an unhealthy meal in to a slightly better one.
Burger Choose the side salad rather than the chips
Curry Have a piece of fruit for afters
Kebab Share the kebab and have a side of coleslaw
Fried chicken, mashed potato and gravy Boil up some frozen peas
Fried rice and sweet and sour pork Order in a vegetable dish
Fish and chips Try some mushy peas
Pizza Chop up some carrot sticks to crunch alongside
Planning a meal in advance is a great way to help with food balance, which I’m sure you know.
If we change the focus to screen time you may feel that your kid’s weekly diet is equally unhealthy. If you have a level of uncertainty in your life which makes it hard to put in place a better, healthier, educated solution then you can use the above idea. Create activity snack breaks. This should help reduce some of the stress or guilt you may be currently sitting with, and help regain some balance!
First thing to do is map out your kids weekly diet of activity, if you use the balance your day resource you can see what your family is currently spending the most time on.
If you ask your children to do something else it does not have to take hours, maybe it is a 5 minute activity or brain break activity. What is important is that they are getting a break from the screen, every hour or so, to do something else!
Short bursts of time add up to big chunks of time, so celebrate those small bursts of activity. Chase your kid around the house before bed. Have a friendly fight to release some of those tensions from the day, drag your kids and the dog for a walk. Invent activity challenges for your child to snack on. Put these on the fridge or on the door of the pantry, and encourage them to choose one during each break.
Snack on challenge ideas
After a game run around the house 5 times
After a game do 20 star jumps
Every hour go and check in on everyone
Set some five minute fitness challenges
Make up a dance routine
Do a virtual workout with a friend
Draw a picture of your pet
Make a note of all the blue things you can see from your window.
Go shoot some hoops
Go ride your board
Play a game with the family
Go outside and play a ball game.
Go for a walk around the block – aim for 30 min
Remember that chores such as vacuuming, tidying rooms or washing up are an active break
When we talk about balance and the importance of it, we can forget the impact this can have on our kids, especially for those who are in their preteen years. At this age they are trying their best to get their heads around what being an adult is like, they are trying hard to fit in and be seen as a good citizen. They are constantly watching and listening to us but unfortunately do not always put two and two together in quite the right way!
As parents myself and my husband have always had a focus on a good night’s sleep, encouraging bedtime routines to help our girls to settle down and have enough down time. I did not think we had made too much of a big deal about it all, but my eldest daughter really struggled with sleep when she was eleven. She would get disturbed and then worry about getting back to sleep, to the point where she would become overwhelmed with emotion, which she would then let out at full volume for everyone to hear.
Let’s just say it took us three months, THREE MONTHS, to get her to the point where she would once again settle down by herself if she was woken. If you can remember what sleep deprivation was like with a youngster, just imagine with a kicking screaming, overwhelmed pre-teen! Throughout the time I had to keep reminding myself and the rest of the family, that she was not doing this on purpose, she was struggling to meet our/her expectations and didn’t know how to.
The above brought home to me how we can cause our kids to feel guilt, even if we don’t really mean to. The truth is none of us sleep the allotted time each and every night. With all the pre-teen thoughts rushing around her head, it was probably an unreasonable expectation she had of herself. I can only guess that she felt that she was failing because she was not sleeping long enough, and each time she woke up she put pressure on herself to go back to sleep as quickly as possible...
One of the most effective solutions we put in place was a LCD alarm clock, this showed her the time and allowed her to see that she had slept for a while, even when she didn’t feel she had. As a teenager she got a Fitbit, she thought this was great as it talked about the cycles of sleep and showed that it was normal to have periods when we wake, when we dream and when we have deeper sleep.
This was a big wake up call (please forgive the pun) for me, I realised that I needed to be so much clearer with my children. For me sleep meant resting their eyes, letting their bodies do nothing and allowing their mind to wander and sort out the day’s events, to my daughter it meant being so deeply asleep that nothing would wake her.
As adults we have a much deeper understanding of the diverse nature of each persons experience. We need to remember to provide our children with the tools to understand that balance is not all about the big stuff, its about the little bits too.
Balance does not mean equal, each family will have a different collective balance point
Small and simple things can make a big difference
Be very clear and truthful with your pre-teen of what the reality of your expectations are