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One of the many paradoxes of the male of the species is that just about every little boy wants to be like his Dad, but when they get to their teenage years, probably the last person any adolescent wants to be like, is to be like their Dad. But eventually, when the boy becomes a parent himself he will develop a degree of respect for his Dad and the circle of life is complete.
Being a bloke is not always easy, and sometimes we are given a really hard time when perhaps we don’t always deserve it. But it has to be admitted, that on many occasions we are our own worst enemy and I suspect that most of us could do a whole lot better.
Firstly, we must remember as a Dad, even when they’re not actually in the room with you, children DO know what’s going on: they do listen in on conversations, and they DO notice things like whats on the computer screen and what you were drinking the night before and they DO copy many of the things that they see you doing! So we have to get it into our heads that first and foremost, if you’ve got a young family, then you are the Defacto first teacher of those children - and these little people learn remarkably quickly!
By the age of five, eating habits have become ingrained and before the age of 10, in children who are overweight and eat fat-rich diets, fatty streaks are already detectable within their arteries - and these fatty streaks are the ones that can lead to future heart disease and strokes. So if Dad’s can lead by example and eat great food - food rich in vegetables, salads, nuts, fruits, chicken, fish and low in saturated fats - then it is very likely that their children will do what they do and that will give them some great eating habits and a much healthier start to life.
The same thing goes for smoking - if children grow up in homes where smoking happens, not only do they suffer from more chest infections and asthma, they miss more days from school and worse of all, they too may experiment with addictive cigarettes when they reach those chaotic years also known as the teenage years! And the male of the species has a huge role to play here: because when they are respecting their own bodies and caring for their own health, they are also showing their children how to care for their own health too and establish habits that will allow them to reach their fullest potential in life.
Children of parents who are physically active, will also tend to take part in physical activities themselves - another lifestyle that is linked with lower heart disease, lower rates of certain cancers and lower incidences of depression and mood disorders: and what a great gift that is to give to your children!
When we talk of Mens Health, it’s often done in isolation, but we are all someones child and we bring with us both burdens and benefits from those self same parents. The challenge for we men is to make sure that whilst we are working on our health, we show example to our own children so that they don’t repeat the mistakes of our past, but learn from the good things that we do. The other consideration for both male and female parents is to acknowledge that often we set double standards in our own homes. We expect our children to be honest, be respectful, and do all the good things good children are expected to do. However we know that perfection is impossible: and that bad things do happen to good people - but it’s how we respond to that bad luck, or what we do when we ourselves misbehave or do something bad, which marks out who we really are.
The ability to apologize to your children when you get it wrong is a great example for them. Admitting fault or error is a real sign of maturity and allows people to move on with dignity - something that often appears lacking in our modern society. And when bad things happen to good people, it’s not a matter of the victim carrying the burden of the perpetrator, but of focusing on regaining your equilibrium and even releasing the guilty party by the simple act of forgiveness. Some of the most dignified people I have ever met are those to whom terrible tragedies have occurred and who bare no malice to the person or persons who inflicted the suffering: these have been the truly great people of my time.
But for we men to operate at our maximum, it is very important that we take time out to reflect on what we need to do, why we are doing it and how best to achieve those goals. Being physically healthy is a basic part of this process and relies on simple daily routines: never smoke: eat a Mediterranean styled diet: if you drink alcohol, then drink in moderation and have a couple of days off alcohol during the week: be physically active 4 or 5 times a week doing something you like - and if you are married or in a long term relationship, then see that relationship as a part of YOUR healthy lifestyle and aim to keep it as vital and alive as you can: have date nights and take time out to do things that you enjoy doing together. Not only will you both benefit from such special times but your children will benefit too as a result of you making your marriage something special.
Mens health week comes around every year, just as all the other Health weeks come and go: but I believe that every week is mens health week and like all good health practices I also believe that we should review what we are doing from time to time just to see whether what I am doing is having positive results, or if there is anything else that I could do which would suit me better, or any way that I could make myself a better people - not only for me, but for my partner and perhaps most critical of all, for the next generation. Because if I can avoid repeating the mistakes of my past, and teach that to my children, then they too will take that habit forward with them allowing them to constantly refine their lives, and pass positive habits onto their children, so that slowly but certainly we will make the world a better place.
A Podcast of this article can be found at Puggle FM