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Ester Marsh column: Balancing your child’s life

The columns from the past two weeks have sparked some great conversation on when a child can work out and when is exercising or competing too much. A rule of thumb when I work with young children is that I never go over their body weight. Does that mean they should lift 70 pounds if they weigh that much? Not particularly. Maybe for squats they could do that much, after they have slowly worked themselves into a weight training program. But raising a healthy child (and adult) is a combination of many different aspects.

In the weight room, I try to look at activities that I (and many of you readers) used to do as a child and mimic them in the weight room. I was a true tomboy, which doesn’t surprise anyone. You would find me in the highest part of a tree, on top of a roof (and jumping off), bareback on a pony or horse frontward and backwards. I was the queen of the monkey bars and ropes, and it was way more fun to climb on the highest slide not using the stairs/ladder. The slide was a much more fun way to get to the top! Lots of pulling, pushing, squatting, lifting and, of course, falling. But we get back up and do it again.

I was a bundle of muscles, strength and flexibility, and weight was never a problem.

I am a European baker’s daughter. I grew up with bread and pastry, and all my life I lived in a bakery where every morning you could wake up with the smell of fresh bread. Every day, after our main meal (which was lunchtime), we had dessert! My mom was very clever for those times. She kept us moving and made sure we would get the nutrients we needed and treats after she knew we had our vegetables, fruits, carbs and protein. Even before sunscreen, she would make us wear a T-shirt for the first three days when we would be on vacation to make sure we wouldn’t burn. And we have olive skin! Needless to say we were, and are, a very active family. My mom always made sure we had time for schoolwork. She knew it was important to finish something we committed to, but that it was also important to have time to have “free play.”

Unfortunately, in this day and age, it is hard to let your child roam the neighborhood and play with their friends, especially at a young age. It’s up to the parents, and many times, grandparents to help and guide our children to become successful and healthy adults. Teach them a healthy lifestyle and help them manage their work, whether it is schoolwork, homework, exercise, sports or eating habits. Unfortunately, as many of us do as adults, children can get over committed and become overworked because there are too many tasks.

Some children can handle more on their plate than others. It’s up to you, as the parent, to figure out what is best for your child. I always tell my children — school, learning and being healthy are your No. 1 priorities and it is your “job.” Additional activities such as running, football, or cheerleading are extras. In this great country, you can get awesome scholarships when you excel in a sport. However, if the grades are not there, the coaches won’t even give a second look. It has to be a total package. It’s tough being a youth nowadays, because the pressure to succeed is super high — not only in class but also in sports.

A child that is overcommitted and needs that extra edge or just does not want to deal with the activity any more is a recipe for disaster. So before you sign your child up for activities and push them to be the best, sit down with them and see what they want. It might be your child who is pushing too hard and you have to set limitations. Schedule an appointment with a professional; you can talk about this when they get their annual health check. Personally, I am very happy with Salisbury Pediatrics where my son Andrew still goes and sees Dr. Lins for his checkups.

Sometimes, less, or less competitive, is better — better for a healthy body, mind and spirit.

Being a parent is the hardest job in the world but also the most rewarding. Good luck!

Ester H Marsh Health and Fitness Director JF Hurley Family YMCA

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