Dublin YMCA Blog

Educational Challenge: Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle by Chiara

How can we help our kids and the new generation to improve their lifestyle?

That’s the question that we have been trying to answer and put in practice in our PAKT afternoon club in Tallaght. During the last few weeks we have been working on how to spur the kids to follow a healthy lifestyle. It’s not an easy duty at all. Firstly, it is not something they can be learned by reading a book, it’s far more difficult than learning some historical dates or multiplication table, therefore it’s also much more difficult to be taught. Secondly, from my point of view, the lack of sun makes it even harder. I don’t want go through “weather theme”, which is a constant topic of conversation here in Ireland, but let me explain. What I meant to say is the weather makes it more complicated to follow an active lifestyle and an healthy diet, for two main reasons: first of all because of the cost of vegetables and fruit. For instance: in Italy I can buy 1kg of lemons or oranges for 0,50€, here I can buy just one lemon or orange for the same price, because they need to be imported. So, how can a middle-class family try to eat five portions of vegetables and fruit per day, as the World Health Organization (WHO) advises? The second reason concerns the outdoor activities: due to the lack of sun, the time that kids can spend outside, in the open air is much less in North Europe.

 

To sum up, I found it a bit challenging promoting healthy food and an active lifestyle in this kind of environment which is very different from where I was brought up. Anyway, we planned some different activities with the kids, showing videos about how dangerous sugar is, encouraging them to avoid sugary snacks as much as they can, explaining the long-term consequences of following bad habits, letting them try a new healthy snack, such as yogurt mixed with fruits and raisins. It’s not easy and the results of such activities are not immediate. That might be one of the reasons that makes our job (youth worker) a bit frustrating: not being able to see an instant and concrete result, after putting in a huge effort. For example: one day after the club, lots of kids asked to bring home the left-over fruit, to show their parents a new kind of fruit they had discovered, like watermelon. I know it is just a very small achievement, but little by little, my hope is that lots of fruit will be spread around their family, school and so on.

But it will take a lot of time and patience, since the time of education is not the same time of real life. The time in which our lives are running is fast, quick. We’re always in rush, always run out of time, in our modern societies it is no longer the strongest one who wins, but the quickest one. The world is changing so quickly, we have to learn as quickly as possible new strategies to adapt ourselves. The quicker you are, the better chance you’ll have to be a success in our society. However, the time of education is slow. The time of learning goes by in an other dimension, different from the time of our busy life. For instance: a book takes time to read, breaking bad habits and learning new ones takes a lot of time as well. Promoting a new lifestyle for kids and new generations, encourages them to take care of themselves but it takes time and patience.
It’s not impossible to change bad habits, it’s a question of time and patience. Wellness is a slow conquest.