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Investing in children’s success

Parents have a significant influence on their children’s lives. Our actions have an impact, even when we don’t realize it. Parents’ behaviors are often passed down to the next generation. This is why it’s important to exhibit the same positive behaviors you want to see in your children. Many parents already understand this, but it’s not easy to do this when their children are in school and participating in extracurricular activities throughout most of the day. How do you engage with your children and get involved in their lives, even when you aren’t with them?

Research shows that children whose parents are actively engaged in their lives have better grades, are more likely to choose healthier foods and activities, have better social skills and are more successful in schools’ health activities.

Showing our children that we are ready to invest in their future is important for their growth.

There are many ways parents can get more involved in their children’s lives. Get involved with your school wellness council or Parent Teacher Association. Making your voice heard in your community is important, especially when it comes to your children’s health.

These groups influence nutrition policies for school meals and snacks. Your suggestions will help staff resolve any issues you may identify, and will help ensure students are eating smart and healthy. The more parents who take action by advocating for improving their children’s health in school, the more schools will take these opinions into consideration.

Encourage healthier events and classroom celebrations. While it may be fun to bring in cupcakes for your child to share with their classmates on their birthday, this treat doesn’t encourage healthy snacking. Work with school administration and your children’s teachers to brainstorm ideas for celebrating birthdays. Make these parties less about sugary treats and more about celebrating that student’s special day.

Improve school fundraising items. There are better ways to raise money than to sell fatty and sugary treats. Talk to your school’s fundraising chair and suggest ideas for fundraisers that sell healthier options, or fundraising ideas that aren’t centered around food. Why not sell student artwork, hold a plant sale or encourage students to be physically active by organizing a dance-a-thon? Or, sell foods that meet Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.

Ensure that nutritional information is available for the products you sell. Some schools have even stopped selling items altogether and simply ask for monetary donations instead. This reduces the amount of time and energy needed to fundraise, and allows schools to keep all of the money students raise.

Pauline Stokes works with Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Prince Edward County Office. Her email address is pstokes@vt.edu