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Prepare children for years of school success

Members of the high school graduating class of 2023 make their kindergarten debut this fall. Going to school for the first time means joining the big kids. Shopping for school supplies is right up there with getting a new pair of shoes.

Naturally, parents share their child's excitement, but also feel equal measures of anxiety, worry and hope.

Are you ready? Forget your child - parents, are you ready for the school years ahead?

I too, am a parent of a kindergartner this fall. Like many parents I want my child to like school and do well and to be prepared to meet the challenges ahead, both academically and socially.

There are certain future goals that we all want for our kids. Generally speaking, they are the same things we want for ourselves: health and happiness, right?

Let's focus on the 'health' goal. In 1948, the World Health Organization defined health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease." This definition is still true today.

Is your student truly healthy according to this definition? You're thinking about it. That's good, because the odds of graduating a healthy high school student are stacked against them.

The percentage of overweight children in the U.S. is growing at an alarming rate, with one out of three kids now considered overweight or obese. The numbers people say that one in two children is likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes.

By 2025, chronic disease will affect half the population. For the first time our children will have shorter life expectancies than ours.

I would guess not too many parents are willing to accept this for their student's future. So what can be done?

Healthy People 2010 identified lack of physical activity and poor nutrition as the top major health concerns for adolescents.

We have great schools in Minnesota to help us win this war on obesity. But let's not leave it all up to the schools to promote healthy eating and physical activity behaviors.

Everyone has a part to play. No parent or teacher is responsible for meeting this challenge alone. Parents, grandparents, schools and the community have to take this challenge on together.

Remember - children learn by example! Helping children develop good, healthy habits at an early age comes by setting a good example yourself. But here's the thing about building habits: If the healthy choices aren't as easy as the unhealthy ones, you probably aren't going to stick with them.

Make the healthy choice the easy choice! Make it easy and fun to eat good foods and to be active as much as possible.

Have kids participate in the grocery buying process. Eating a carrot is much more satisfying when you've picked it out yourself.

If it's safe to walk or bike rather than drive, do so.

Limit screen time (television, movies, videos and computer time) and substitute the rest of leisure time with physical activity.