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July 2024

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Mental Health Matters: July 2024

Getting Your Kids to MOVE!

Summer is here and that creates a very different schedule for most children. The school year is much more regimented for families, in order to get through the day. Keeping children active and involved during the summertime can be a challenge, but is very necessary to foster healthy lifelong habits.

The medical community advises that an hour of daily activity is essential for children’s health, but many spend more time in sedentary activities instead. Throw in the lure of TV, internet, and electronic games, and it becomes even harder to get children up and moving. Helping your child of any age realize that activity must be a part of their day EVERY DAY will make them healthier and happier the rest of their lives.
Here are some ideas.

First, be a role model for them. They need to see you being active. Yard work? Gardening? Walking the dog? Running? Yoga? Biking? Martial arts? Hiking? Find what you enjoy and have them join you. Make it a family routine. You will benefit, too.

Encourage activity that is age-level and skill-level appropriate. Your child will be discouraged with an activity far beyond their reach. Start small and build up.

Are there group activities they can join? Small communities may not have a large number of team sports to choose from, but find out. Baseball, softball, soccer, dance, yoga, or swimming might just be available for a small cost. Talk with other parents.

When you or family members buy gifts for your child, keep the electronics to a minimum. Do they need another video game? How about a volleyball net? Frisbees? Gardening tools? Ask your child something they would like to learn to do and choose something to help them be active.

Talk with your child’s doctor about his or her activity needs. If your doctor is concerned about their weight, talk with them about ways to encourage healthy eating habits AND healthy exercise. But always make it about health and NOT appearance. Healthy bodies are always beautiful.

If your child is spending too much time on social media, TV, and other electronic activities, you may need to consider setting more boundaries and time guidelines. These types of activities are important. They can encourage problem-solving, reading, and more, but they can also be detrimental in many ways, not just limiting your child’s physical activity. Consider requiring involvement with these things in your presence. You will be much more aware of what your child is doing if they are in the family room or at the kitchen table, not behind the closed door of their bedroom.

There are so many beautiful places to explore in our area. Cabresto Lake. Columbine Trail. Questa Overlook. Black Rock Lake. The fish hatchery. Make a list and challenge the whole family to experience each one before summer is over.

Not only will increasing your child’s activity level benefit their physical health, exercise will improve their mental health by reducing anxiety and depression, and improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Moving is a win-win situation! Get those kids off the couch and see the benefits! Enjoy the month of August.


  • Dawn Provencher

    Mental Health Matters: The northern Taos County communities have lost several young people in recent months. Questa del Rio News is starting a column dedicated to mental health matters. Dawn Provencher is a retired counselor. She has a master’s degree in counseling and a master’s degree in social work. She will be contributing to this column on a monthly basis.

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