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Physical Activity and Leaving Home

You can encourage your clients who are anxious about their sons and daughters leaving home to create healthful lifestyles that will help to buffer the stresses of separation anxiety.

THE TRANSITION TO life away from home can be a challenging time for young people, and most parents experience mixed emotions as their fledglings leave the nest for life on their own. On the one hand, parents are happy that their children have made it through high school and are taking positive steps toward creating a rewarding career. But many young people have difficulties in college, and parents have limited power to help, so they worry instead. As a fitness professional, you can encourage your young clients going off to school to create healthful lifestyles that will help to buffer the stresses of campus life. And you can do the same for clients who are anxious about their sons and daughters leaving home.
Lifestyle and stress: Helping parents adjust
Stress is a fact of life. Instead of trying to protect their children from all sources of stress, parents must focus instead on helping their children develop good coping skills. Once children have moved away from home, parents must trust in their children -- and realize that they, the parents, have little control. (They probably already realized this to some extent during the high school years!)
Parents who are very worried may benefit from more information about coping with the stress of sons and daughters leaving home. Encourage them to talk to other parents who have gone through this transition, and even to seek counseling if they find their worries disruptive. Typical advice to parents includes the following:
1. Arrange with your son or daughter a mutually convenient time for a weekly telephone conversation. Regular email is also nice.
2. You may miss children who have left. These feelings are normal, and you must allow yourself to go through this grieving process.
3. Develop rewarding hobbies and activities.
4. Spend time with other people you care about.
5. Follow the advice you are giving your children about the importance of physical activity, good nutrition and stress management.
Physical activity: A positive response to stress
Parental responsibilities often keep people from spending as much time as they would like in recreational pursuits. Some people find that when their children leave home, they now have an opportunity to do new things. Encourage clients coping with separation anxiety to enjoy the stress reduction benefits of regular exercise. They'll feel better, look and feel younger, improve their health, and set a great example for their children.
Feel better. Educate your clients about the stress-management benefits of regular physical activity. Do they know that regular exercise helps to reduce feelings of mild to moderate depression and anxiety as effectively as medication? Exercise helps people feel more relaxed, more energetic and less irritable.
Look and feel younger. One of the issues for parents whose kids are leaving home is the realization that an important phase of life is ending. Such transitions remind them that time is passing, and that they are growing older. Remind clients that exercise is the best antidote to aging. Much of the decline that is attributed to the aging process is, in fact, the result of a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise improves muscle strength, cardiovascular endurance and body composition.
Improve health. Everyone knows that regular physical activity helps to prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis. Stronger joints are less painful and make daily activities easier.
Set a great example. Children do not always obey, but they do notice what their parents do, and they may even listen to their words. Young people are quick to point out hypocrisy in their elders. Parents' admonitions to develop a healthful lifestyle will carry more weight if their words are backed by a good example.
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