It will make everything better, I promise.
No, I'm not suggesting you have a swig of Mother's Little Liquid Helper**, I'm inviting you to have a refreshing glass of water. This may be the shortest blog post I've ever written, because this is pretty straightforward and uncomplicated: drink more water and get your kids hooked on water! If you already do this, you don't need to read further. For the other 99% of you, please fill 'er up and read on. Frankly, I'm a tad annoyed that the First Lady is getting all the press (and some backlash--read on) for something I've been yapping about for decades: most of us don't drink enough water, and we would feel MUCH better if would drink more water.
[** Not gonna lie -- there were many afternoons during my mothering-young-children days when I fantasized about having an actual drink...and sometimes I actually even had a drink. Never in an unsafe way -- if there was any driving or heavy machinery operating in the near future -- but there it is. I guess I'm in a confessional mood. My go-to cocktail? Prune juice with a splash of vodka, because they'd never ask for a sip of my prune juice!!] I digress.
To Drink More Water, How Much is Enough
As with parenting philosophies, there are two major schools of thought regarding the drink water issue: the conventional and the progressive. The conventional is epitomized by this quote from a medical professor, pushing back against the White House's "Drink Up" initiative:
If I only drank when I'm thirsty, I'd be a very sick puppy. There are only two circumstances under which I actually feel thirsty: when I was nursing--the last instance of that was over 22 years ago--and late in the evening following a salty dinner like Chinese or pizza--and that is rare indeed.
I realized this about myself long before it was fashionable. And long before there were hip water-carrying receptacles. In my old former life in TV production, I used to walk around the CBS-Los Angeles newsroom with a massive blue plastic cup filled with water, to harness the "cocktail party" effect: if you're holding it, you're more likely to sip from it regularly. I took a lot of ribbing over my Big Blue Cup, but I believe it helped set me on a healthier lifelong course.
Part of that healthy course has been a willingness to explore unconventional approaches to health and nutrition. I was swayed in a big way by the book Your Body's Many Cries for Water. If the "we're designed to drink when we're thirsty" idea is conventional, a more progressive view is that there are many influences that can impact our "design," impinge on our bodies' healthy functioning, and undermine our wellbeing. Classical homeopaths even include as a basic intake question when consulting with a new patient: Are you a thirsty person or a not-thirsty person?
The old 8-glasses-per-day rule is definitely passé. Current guidelines vary (oh, and by the way, did I mention that you should NOT take this post...or anything I write...as medical advice): there are some who give absolute amounts based on your sex and caloric intake (yikes, complicated much?!), and others that suggest the basic formula of "divide your weight by 2 and drink that many ounces per day." Personally, that one makes sense to me. And of course the First Lady is simply asking us all to drink one extra glass per day!
A Few Tips
My biggest tip is to not make it complicated (see above paragraph). Find ways to layer more water into your daily routine, and soon it will be a seamless habit. Once you yourself drink more water every day, your children will have a healthier example to model.
The Cocktail Party Effect -- As I mentioned above, if you're holding a glass of water, you're more likely to keep sipping from it. And probably the healthiest way to drink more water is in regular small increments, rather than a 20-ounce deluge every few hours! (Don't bother pushing back against that, oh-good-medical-professor: I do not have a research citation for that assertion; I read or heard it recently and it just...makes sense!)
The Hourly Hydration Plan -- I'm actually on this today, and my timer has already gone off once while writing. When I realize I've had a couple days of too little water (I can feel it in the form of various pains and just feeling...not quite right.) I institute the HHP: I set the kitchen timer for 1 hour and each time it goes off I drink a big glass of water, then set it again. Very low-tech. Sure, you can get "an app for that," but why complicate things? You don't need to make a pie-chart of your water intake, just drink it.
Make Water Kid-Friendly -- It is far easier to establish the habit that "we drink water" in the first place, rather than change habits in the middle of the parenting stream.
- If your young child is currently drinking juice, begin cutting it with increasing amounts of water.
- Let your child pick his or her own water bottle out of the cool array of choices at your health food or outdoor gear store, and use it just for water.
- Get a fun counter-top dispenser that your child can operate. (There are many who suggest that cold water isn't as effective at hydrating you as room-temperature water.)
- Make the Hourly Hydration Plan into a game with your older child--unlimited possibilities there.
- While a taste for just plain water will serve your child for life, you might find the current selection of flavored stevia (natural, healthy sweetener) drops helpful, especially the fruit-flavored ones. Even better, a drop of food-grade essential oil--I love doTerra's orange or grapefruit. Just a drop or two in a glass of water may help your child drink more water. And you, too!
I'm the author of Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers, and also the adoption expert on Mothering's expert panel. I write and speak on prenatal, child and parent development and I have a private practice coaching parents-in-progress. I raised two humans, earned a doctorate, and lived to report back. On the wings of my book I've been visiting many groups and conferences around the world, and I'm happy to be sharing dispatches and inside glimpses with you here on Mothering.com! As well as good old parenting stuff. As a special gift to Mothering readers I'm offering "A Unique 7-Step Parenting Tool."