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Teaching Children Proper Hydration: How Parents Can help

Lessons for Your Kids

About a year ago, I saw a runner that I'll never forget. She came into my office around noon time on a Sunday because when she went running that morning she became dizzy. She was worried that something was horribly wrong with her heart. While talking with her, I learned a few interesting tidbits:

  1. She went running fairly quickly after she woke up with no breakfast or even a glass of water.
  2. She doesn't drink much in general.
  3. No one has ever talked to her about hydration, including parents, coaches and health teachers at school.
  4. This has happened before and always when she hasn't eaten breakfast.

I asked her how her car would run if she attempted to drive it when the gas tank was nearly empty and it was running on fumes. I could see a big light bulb go off in her head. The next day I had her wake up, drink a sports drink and eat a protein-loaded breakfast. She went running after that without any dizziness or problems at all.

While sorting all this out, try and remember you are really sorting this out for your child. The more you involve your child in the discussions about how best to hydrate for sports, the more successful your child will be on executing the plan without you there. Our job as parents is to try and empower our kids to be independent with their health care and the best way to accomplish that is to actively involve them in discussions that deal with their own bodies. Believe it or not, even the youngest of athletes understands how important it is to care for their own bodies! In fact, they see Elmo doing it all the time on Sesame Street. Our job is to continue to reinforce those lessons as our kids get older and help them to gain more and more independence and competence as they spend more time away from us.