I recently posted that pandemic lockdowns had negative consequences on childhood obesity rates, particularly among low-income and minority populations.
I can relate to these kids, as I was once a fat kid and experienced my own version of a lockdown.
Going into 6th grade, my parents got a divorce. I moved from a neighborhood full of kids always playing ball to the other side of town where I didn't have as many active friends. Then I moved to a whole new town and knew no one.
During that time, my brother worked, my mom worked a couple jobs, and I was an 11 year old kid all alone for what seemed like an eternity at night, during the weekend, and during the summer. My mom and brother did what they had to do and I don't hold anything against them.
I put on weight, I stayed up late, I ate like crap, I got depressed, I became anxious, I medicated with porn and food. I was angry, hurt, and in a lot of pain.
I know what it is like to be an isolated, lonely, chunky kid. It's not fun. But overcoming those challenges made me the man I am today, so I wouldn't really change it. I now see that I allowed myself to be a victim, to not rise above the circumstances; at the same time, I now see that I was just a child and need to extend myself grace.
To parents who's kids are struggling physically, spiritually, emotionally (and putting on weight as a result) because of the pandemic, let me give you some advice.
Love them -- if they're putting on weight, acting out, be firm but loving toward them. Love doesn't mean enabling them to self-destruct. Love means being in the crap with them and walking out of the muck and mire together.
Lead by example -- stay active, be disciplined in your routines, your eating, and your working out. Your kids are watching more than you realize! It may not make an immediate impact, but it will overtime as they see the joy that comes from discipline.
Don't gloss over pain -- life sucks sometimes and it is important to emphasize that trying times make a soul resilient and more appreciative of the good times.
Don't minimize hardship -- just because trying times make a soul resilient, it is important to recognize to your kid that things are hard, that they are hurting, and it is OK to feel upset, lonely, scared. But once you do recognize it, then ya gotta face it, learn from it, and overcome the problem.
Don't hold them to your own standards -- Be happy with your kid's progress, don't be disappointed they didn't do more. Kids will react to positive responses more than negative responses.
Align incentives so movement and growth is emphasized --
Want your kid to spend less time on their phone? Tell them they can only have the phone for 2 hours a day and they've got get out of the house.
Want your kid to spend more time outside? Put the TV away and tell your kid nobody can watch TV till you're done with work, they've done their school work, and everyone has worked out.
Create a workout chart and if kids workout a certain number of days in a month, then reward them with a trip, a ball game, a fun experience.