As parents we are responsible for nourishing our child’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development. That is a big undertaking. The childhood years are filled with rapid physical growth and development, brain development, language explosion, emotional exploration, and independence seeking. With vigilance, love, and encouragement our kids are able to experience the world with the vigor of an explorer and return to tell the tales and grab a quick (or long) snuggle with mom and dad at the end of the day. This is certainly what I want for my child, don’t you?
If we want our children to experience all that life has to offer, we need to make sure that our children stay healthy. If your child is sick, not receiving the right nutrients, or lethargic then they aren’t experiencing the world to the fullest. One of the reasons many children today aren’t experiencing the best life has to offer is poor diet and nutrition, which often stems from a lack of knowledge, money, and/or time.
I will be honest, food is a struggle in our home. The toddler loves Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies. He yells for bunnies. He hops up and down for bunnies. He cries when the bunnies are all gone. He is a typical toddler. This doesn’t mean that he gets bunnies every time he asks and he doesn’t get as many bunnies as he would like. We limit those kinds of treats. Before, with, and after the bunnies we offer a nutrient rich snack. Apples, bananas, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cucumber, carrots, yogurt, pears, plums, dates, and sunflower seeds all offer wonderful companionship to the all-important bunnies. We keep these nutrient rich foods on the counter at all times. The foods in sight are the ones he asks for most often. The bunnies live in the pantry.
I feel blessed that I have been able to learn about nutrition and specifically, childhood nutrition. I know what types of foods our son needs to be healthy and to minimize the risk of obesity and other common diseases, but many parents do not have that background. When we visit our pediatrician for well visits we discuss nutrition. We treat those well visits as consultations with our partner in our son’s healthcare. As partners we work together to overcome challenges, nutrition or otherwise, and stay on the path to good health. It is not the pediatrician’s job to be the sole provider of healthcare for our child. As parents we must be informed and active in shepherding our children to adulthood.
We have a wonderful pediatric practice we use. The doctors are naturally minded, but are well-versed in the latest interventions as well. They take the time to talk with us as parents and partners without getting outwardly frustrated when we present the research we have done on a topic. They work WITH us to make a plan together, even if that plan may deviate from the norm. There is a new doctor in our practice whom we haven’t met yet. He is already doing amazing things in our community. He is bringing awareness to baby-led weaning with an article in the Greenville Journal, commented on the overuse of antibiotics in an article in the Greenville News Online, and is spreading the word on how to encourage kids to eat healthy foods on his blog. He has even started a “Beyond the Well Check” group for new parents in the practice. Based on what I know, he is easily someone that I feel we could partner with to foster our son’s well-being.
This leads me to my question for you today: Are you an active partner in your child’s healthcare or are you a passive onlooker? If you are not currently an active partner in your child’s healthcare, please consider joining your healthcare provider in partnership. You aren’t expected to know everything, but even learning a little can be so helpful. Remember that your healthcare provider only sees your child when they are really sick and at yearly well visits. You see your child every single day. If you don’t think your healthcare provider is interested in partnering with you, it may be time to find another provider. I am certainly thankful for the relationship we have with our son’s pediatricians and look forward to meeting the new doctor as well (ideally in passing, not for a sick-child visit!).
With so many children in health crisis in the United States, please take the time to learn about nutrition and become an active partner with your healthcare providers.
May your days be filled with good health, a strong support system, and terrific healthcare providers!