What are the physical benefits of good parenting?

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“Clearly, we have shown that adverse childhood experiences are common, destructive, and have an effect that often lasts for a lifetime. They are the most important determinant of the health and well-being of our nation.” –Vincent J. Felitti, M.D. – The Relationship between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adult Health: Turning Gold into Lead — The Permanente Journal 

The data has existed for more than seventeen years. There is a direct correlation between adverse childhood experiences and adult health risk factors.

The proof can be seen in the classrooms, communities, and hospitals across our nation. 

The American Journal of Preventative Medicine published a monumental article in 1998. It is entitled Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults. This comprehensive article is based on the research of Dr. Felitti and his colleagues.

serious conditions & critical questions

Serious conditions like alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, sexually transmitted diseases, and suicide are preventable. So are obesity, heart disease, cancer, and lung and liver disease. Yet critical questions remain.

What will be the long term impact of the monumental Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (“The ACE Study”) by Dr. Felitti of Kaiser Permanente?

How can parents make a difference and what resources are available to prevent adult health risk factors?

Managing the inevitable stress of daily living is essential for parents to prevent child abuse. Stress management can also reverse the serious conditions that can result if a child has been mistreated.

sustainable solutions

With many healthy activities — jogging, yoga, cycling, hiking, swimming, to name a handful— becoming mainstream over the past few decades, the wellness movement is in full swing. Whether you enjoy the excitement of a group activity or prefer the serenity of communing solo with nature, there are numerous convenient and inexpensive ways to relax your mind while strengthening your body and uplifting your spirit.

“Yard by yard is hard, but inch by inch is a cinch,” says Jack Canfield. He co-authored The Success Principles: How to Go from Where You Are to Where You Want To Be. This adage can inspire you to add something simple and positive each month to your lifestyle. Studies show that doing anything for twenty-one consecutive days creates a new habit. And leading by example will help you cope better while being a good role model for your children.

getting started

The best way to get started is by doing something simple and free. First try walking, which can relax the mind and strengthen the body in several ways. Start small and gradually increase the frequency, duration, and intensity of your strolls. This will get the wheels of progress spinning.

Build your momentum by increasing your water intake until it reaches fifty percent of your body weight in ounces (for example, if you weigh 180 pounds then consume at least 90 ounces daily). This is another simple and relatively inexpensive improvement which leads to greater mental clarity, a more active metabolism, and gradual detoxification, a few of its many benefits.

Next, carve a couple of short daily relaxation breaks into your lifestyle by adding two cups of green tea which has antioxidant properties to strengthen your immune system, the foundation for better health. You set the time of day. Just stay consistent and observe the changes you experience.

strengthening the bond with your kids

Are you wondering how these fundamental but important new habits will help you strengthen your bond with your children?

When you experience less stress, greater mental clarity and have more energy you will naturally have more control of your emotions in difficult situations. This will result in positive role modeling and the prevention of mistreatment or child abuse.    

Once you’ve made some noticeable changes, there are several other simple yet effective upgrades which can improve the quality of your life. It will also send a positive message to your children. A message that accentuates the value of self-respect, a characteristic that leads to greater self-esteem and well being — ultimately reducing adult health risk factors.      

When a father integrates regular meditation and relaxation into his lifestyle he is intentionally using his breath to calm and tone his nervous system. This, in turn, will empower him to relate more effectively with his son.

Practicing yoga is one way to incorporate meditation. There are also numerous free instructional videos available on YouTube from which to build a meditation practice. Scientific evidence exists touting the many advantages of establishing a meditation practice. One of my favorite meditation series, addressing many aspects of personal and spiritual development, has been created by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey.  The Chopra Foundation publishes the weekly Chopra Center Newsletter.  It is an excellent free resource addressing a wide range of health topics.

just relax

If a relaxation routine is more appealing than pursuing meditation, then practicing an instrument, reading insightful books, or doing craftwork will foster the serenity necessary to relate on a deeper level with your son. The key is to make time regularly to nurture yourself so you have more to contribute to your son’s life. A dad can only give a gift that he possesses.   

There is another worthwhile routine for a father to develop before attending to anything else each morning. It consists of just five minutes of meditation, five minutes of journal writing and five minutes of reading from an insightful book. This simple yet effective 5/5/5 practice has the potential to connect a dad to his inner wisdom. When a father connects more deeply within he can connect more deeply with his son. He can then give his most precious gift. 

Whether your chief goal is nurturing your mind, building your body, or uplifting your spirit one thing is certain. Unless you go within to connect to your personal power, you will go without the most precious gift you can impart to your family — the depth of your self.  

Joseph Cohen is the co-author of Write Father, Write Son: A Bond-Building Journey and  President and co-founder, Empowered Fathers in Action (EFA) Foundation