Childhood obesity is now being looked at as a global public health crisis, which if left unattended, unaddressed, could spell doom for our future and future generations. The problem is not so much about just being overweight but about the host of illnesses that it brings — diabetes, heart diseases, cancer, to a name a few — and the premature deaths and low quality of life that go with it. And while this is bad news, the good news is that all this is preventable. But for prevention, we have to look at children as a collective, as a public resource that all of us are responsible for. And know that parents are not solely responsible for the health of their children. We have to rise above our differences and as people, policymakers and governments, we must work together to ensure a healthy future for our children.
The health of your child is not just your responsibility
If our children are not unhealthy or overweight, it’s a shocker — our green spaces are shrinking, our pollution levels are rising, big food giants are gunning for our kids with contests, ads, toys, and we still feel that it is either their personal failure or our parenting failure that they are fat. Relax, it’s not.
“We have to rise above our differences and as people, policymakers and governments, we must work together to ensure a healthy future for our children.”
For too long we have looked at obesity as what it is not—a personal problem brought about by a lack of willpower, overeating or lazing around. When we subject children to this kind of understanding of health, we make things worse for them. A child doesn’t get unhealthy in isolation, all that you see in them is a representation of what is happening around them. Bramhanda to pinda and vice versa, as the Upanishads explain — all that you see in an individual is a reflection of all that there is in the universe or his environment. The fact is that we are raising children in an Obesogenic environment — you could walk to school, your child is driven; you played downstairs for three hours every single day, your child doesn’t or plays at the club maybe over the weekend; your mother made you hot nashta, your kid is eating cereal with milk or drinking juice or just going to school without food.
Being a parent today is riddled with challenges that were until recently unknown to mankind. I mean, when you and I were growing up, or even until fifteen years ago, if you did something wrong, you were at fault, not your parents. If you got hurt, if you got scolded in school, it was all your fault. Your parents called the shots, you suffered them — well, you know what I mean. If you came back saying that your friend is going to the US so even you want to go, your parents told you to go to hell. Today, they are looking at EMI options for Miami Disney World. Other than your birthday or on the day you stood first in class or came home to announce that you were the school captain or till you were down with flu, no one at home did anything to please you. They loved you, yes. But no one serviced you. Everyone went on with their lives, and you were integrated into the eco-system — not vice versa.
“We are complicating the smallest of issues because we want to be our kids’ friends, not their parents. Being a parent is an opportunity, we must not let it pass.”
But today, even if your child has a runny nose, it’s your fault. There’s something that you haven’t done. Haven’t refilled the sanitiser or given them a protein-rich diet or something. Children today, unfortunately, have been turned into consumers whose approval we must constantly seek. And yet, they are only tiny little beings who are entirely dependent on us. From sussu, to potty, from food to security, from schooling to recreation. As a parent, you have the opportunity to create health, education, mistakes, technology— essentially, to define specifically what each one of them means for your child. Basically, you get to tell them what they want as food and exercise in order to have health, the primary need for a happy child.
Empowering, isn’t it? And yet, today, as parents, empowered isn’t exactly how we feel. We are complicating the smallest of issues because we want to be our kids’ friends, not their parents. Being a parent is an opportunity, we must not let it pass. There’s plenty of time to be friends later. For now, be a parent; lead, guide.
Excerpted with permission from Notes for Healthy Kids by Rujuta Diwekar. Published by Westland (an Amazon company).