Do you want to improve your family’s health and well-being? You don’t need to put everyone on a crash diet or start collectively training for a marathon. It all begins with the habits you embrace every day.
What practical tips can you instill in your kids that will keep them feeling better for life? Consider teaching your family the following nine smart, healthy lifestyle changes this year.
1. Washing Your Hands
After living through two years of a pandemic, you’ve probably sung “Happy Birthday” millions of times. Have you taught your child this handy trick for knowing how long to scrub? Older children might respond to statements like, “lather up like you’ve been chopping habaneros and have to take out your contact lenses.”
Ensure your kids aren’t only savvy on how but when to wash. For example, they should still lather up before visiting someone sick or run a high risk of severe complications from COVID-19. They should also scrub their hands upon coming in from the playground and when they finish playing with pets.
2. Brushing Your Teeth
Dental care is expensive. Worse, problems with your mouth can lead to severe health issues. Researchers found an association between gum disease and dementia, and poor oral hygiene may also raise your cardiovascular disease risk.
Your children should brush twice daily. Their evening bathroom trip should entail floss and rinse for a full cleanse. If your littles balk at string floss, consider a water version. Many children find these fun to use.
3. Mindful Eating
How often do you gobble? You aren’t a turkey, and mindless eating isn’t healthy for you or those you love.
Instead, practice mindful eating. Bring back the family dinner at least a few nights a week, pausing to put down your fork and converse between bites. Teach your children to savor the flavor of food on their tongues. Teaching them to appreciate each nibble when young will help them avoid the kind of mindless grazing that can pack on extra pounds.
4. Cooking Simple Meals
If you disappeared, would your family starve? You might enjoy playing Martha Stewart, but everyone in your family should know the basics of how to cook.
Teach your children — and spouse, if necessary — how to whip up simple, healthy meals. For example, you can make a simple soup with some leftover chicken, frozen veggies and broth that contains far less sodium than what comes in many cans.
5. Basic Automotive Repair
How is changing a tire a healthy habit to teach your family this year? When your 16-year-old is stranded on a deserted highway at night, you immediately understand the benefit to their safety.
Teach your children basic skills such as how to change a tire and battery. If you’re not too savvy under the hood yourself, consider it a learning adventure you can take together. You’ll feel much more confident the next time you have to take your vehicle to the mechanic when you can accurately name the various engine parts.
6. Limiting Screen Time
The pandemic rang in an increase in screen time, with more people working and learning from home. It’s understandable if you got a little lax with enforcement in all the hullabaloo, but it’s time to get back on a healthier track.
Teach your children about the way the blue light wavelength messes with their circadian rhythms. Older kids, in particular, are more likely to comply if they understand the rationale behind the “no phones after lights out” rule versus viewing it as capricious.
7. Getting Outdoors Every Day
Going outside has oodles of yummy health benefits. Plants emit phytoncides, chemicals they use for defense. When humans breathe them, it kicks up their immunity. Furthermore, sunlight helps your body produce natural vitamin D, a far more bioavailable form of the hormone than you’ll find on supplement shelves.
Encourage your children to get outside daily. Take younger ones to the park whenever the weather permits. Consider implementing a post-dinner walk once or twice a week — it could improve your communication, too.
8. Identifying Their Emotions
Emotions drive thoughts, which in turn compel behavior. However, your child could act erratically without understanding what motivates them if you don’t teach them to identify their feelings.
These maladaptive responses can severely impact their life trajectory. For example, someone who never learned healthy ways to express anger could end up getting fired time and again. Instead of engaging in self-reflection, they reinforce their belief that the world is out to get them.
Spend time teaching your child to identify how they feel. Be a good role model — use “I” statements like, “I feel frustrated,” or “I feel irritated.” Give them the vocabulary they need, and discuss healthy ways to process and vent various emotions. For example, it’s okay to lie on the bed and pound a pillow when angry but not break someone else’s toys or hit them.
9. Keeping a Regular Bedtime
Sleep is vital to your child’s mental and physical development. One of the best ways to instill positive sleep hygiene is to keep a regular bedtime — even on the weekends. Doing so helps synchronize your child’s circadian rhythms, making it easier for them to fall under.
However, let your child have some say in their bedtime, within reason. For example, many teenagers naturally stay up late and sleep in the next day. As long as their habits don’t disturb other family members or make them late for school, they should listen to their bodies.
Smart, Healthy Habits to Teach Your Family This Year
Improving your loved ones’ well-being doesn’t require drastic measures. The most significant impact often comes from what you do every day. Teach your family these smart, healthy habits this year and instill better practices for life.