Whatever the reason, your family’s healthy habits have gotten off track. It’s happened to all of us. Fear not! You do have the power to re-establish your family’s healthy habits. It’s all about routine.
"Having a predictable routine is essential for every family," says Eric M. Anderman, PhD, a professor of educational psychology at Ohio State University.
It's important for your kids' physical and mental health -- and yours, too, say experts. Here’s how to get your family back into healthy habits and gain some peace of mind.
Rule #1 -- Start small and make changes slowly.Yes! You’ve decided to take control of the situation and you’re ready to go! Great! Deciding to get back on track can be hard to do -- nice job. Yes, getting started right away is a good idea, but go easy. If your home life has gotten chaotic, trying to change all the rules overnight is likely to backfire. You don’t have to think of it as all or nothing. Make it easier on yourself and your kids -- take it slow.
"Establish the family routine one piece at a time," says Anderman. "Once you get the first change down, move on to the next one." For example, work on bedtime and then phase in the other routines over a few weeks. Setting smaller goals sets you up for success, and you’ll be more likely to keep at it!
Two Family Routines to Focus on:
- Recommit to bedtime. During a vacation or a stressful time at home, bedtimes can get later and later. Kids between ages 5 and 10 need more sleep than you think -- 10 to 11 hours a night.
"The effect of sleep deprivation on kids is really quite serious," Anderman says. "Their brains just don't function normally on five or six hours of sleep." If your kids are well-rested, they'll be happier, more active, and less likely to overeat. All can help keep them at a healthy weight. Getting back into the swing of things will also be a lot easier if they're not exhausted and grumpy.
How to do it: To make sure your kids are getting enough sleep, set a bedtime and stick to it. Re-establish the rule. For example, “Bedtime is at 8.” Then help your kids wind down for bed by getting back in sync with their normal bedtime routine. Falling in line with the ritual of brushing teeth, getting a glass of water, and reading one book -- or whatever your family’s ritual is -- can help your kids and their bodies recognize it is time for sleep. Keep in mind that whatever bedtime you pick, if you can stick to it on the weekends, too, it will make your life easier.
- Eat together. It's easy to let family meals slide when things get busy, but they're important. Family meals offer you a time to connect. There's also a clear health benefit. Studies show that kids who eat with their family tend to eat healthier and are less likely to be obese.
How to do it: Need to break the fast-food cycle? Plan ahead. It is easier to eat better if there are healthy options on hand.
Make a list of the food you will need for the week. It may be easier to plan it out meal by meal. If certain nights are going to be too busy to cook, try planning out a few meals you can cook ahead of time on a day when you have extra time. Have more time on Tuesday? Cook extra chicken breasts you can cut up and throw on lettuce and pre-cut veggies Wednesday night for fast, no-cook salads.
Or make a double batch of your favorite healthy dishes on nights you have time. Then, stash them in the freezer for days when you are too rushed to do anything but hit “start” on the microwave.
Tips to Know While You’re Working to Get Back on Track
Expect resistance. Whenever you make a change to the family rhythm or adjust your parenting style, your kids are not going to like it. But it is worth it. Stick with it and they will adapt. Remember that while kids may not like rules and routine, they need them. They feel safer and more relaxed knowing what the limits are, say experts.
How to deal with resistance.
- Set ground rules. To get kids to cooperate, many parents offer unhealthy prizes to get their kids into a family routine. Screen time in front of video games or TV is an unhealthy choice because it keeps kids from getting up and being physically active. Using sweets and treats as a reward places an unhealthy value on food. Kids can learn to associate food with feeling good and may begin to use it as a way to try and fix feelings. Food can’t fix feelings. So avoid the unhealthy rewards approach. Not only is it a less-than-healthy tactic -- it can backfire.
"If you start rewarding your kids for fulfilling basic household obligations, all they'll think about is the reward," says Anderman. He recommends that you make a child's allowance or privileges depend on whether or not they do a few tasks. If they don't do them, they don't get paid their allowance or don’t get their privileges. That way it's not about instant gratification but about building a sense of responsibility and natural family obligation.
- Keep calm. "If you're screaming and harassing your kids all the time to do things, your approach isn't working," Anderman says. "You need to break the pattern." Stay calm.
- Teach by example. They say actions speak louder than words. Instead of yelling, if you want your kids to get back into healthy habits, show them how.
For example, worried your family has stopped exercising and being physically active?
Choose one thing to work on yourself. If you’ve stopped taking your Saturday morning walks, be the ringleader. Once everyone clears the breakfast table, start lacing up your shoes.
Need motivation? Exercise is a great stress reliever. Helping kids to handle their own stress will help their overall happiness. Walking together is also great family quality time. Plus, by taking the initiative to start walking again, it shows them that being active is something that you like to do and that it is important to you. Parenting experts say that once you resume your normal routine, the kids will follow naturally.
Whew! It’s totally do-able, but all this getting back on track does take work.
Next time, plan ahead. The next time a break is coming up, just remember to be kind to yourself and try to plan ahead. It’s totally fine to relax the family routine on breaks or vacation. Saying otherwise would be unrealistic. It’s OK to let your kids go to bed a little late. It's OK to be a little more lax about junk food. But don't make breaks a free-for-all. If you completely scrap your family routine when you're away, it will be harder to reestablish it later. Even though you know you can get your family back on track, be kind to yourself and don’t stray too far from the norm.
[Source : WebMD]