I have a guest post today! I haven’t had one in a while- enjoy Gina’s post on getting kids to embrace healthy habits.
We all want our kids to be fit, whole, and healthy for at least some of their lives. The problem is that kids learn best from what they see, not what you say. Healthy habits for kids begins with you – the parent – taking care of yourself first. That’s your best way to create a family-health home.
6 HEALTHY HABITS FOR KIDS THAT YOU MUST DO FIRST
If you want to create a great life for your kids, begin by helping yourself to have a great life. Here are six ways to get started:
1. Staying – Or Getting – In Shape
I’m not going to lie – getting in shape takes discipline. Starting a fitness routine when you’ve never really committed before takes a huge act of will. The trick is really to trick yourself. You can make goals and push yourself to get them down. Here are some things that have worked for me:
- Find partners to keep you accountable. Or, go to a gym or sign up with a meetup group of like-minded people who want to get fit together.
- Do a workout you like. Right now for me, that’s Crossfit, but other fitness routines that have worked for me have included yoga, kickboxing, hiking, and Zumba. What is the workout that you’d like to do for yourself?
- Set up a reward system. After a year of workouts, I received a shirt at my gym for my 150th visit. My next reward comes at 300 visits. To inspire myself, I’m setting goals in increments of 50. At each level (200, 250, 300), I will reward myself, with each treat getting better. This will culminate in a full day spa treatment for my final reward!
- Make it easy. Whether or not you are a member at a gym, you can work out at home. That way, there are no excuses – even if it snows. (Although shoveling *might* be a good enough workout for you, depending on how much snow there is!) Go on Youtube and watch free videos that feature yoga, dance or workout programs; you may even want to buy some workout videos,. Do whatever you need to make sure you can exercise in your home.
2. The Food In Your Fridge
We cannot expect our kids to develop healthy habits if we are squirreling away treats for ourselves. And guess what? Even if you think they don’t notice, I assure you, they DO. TRUST ME ON THIS.
So stop it. Extra sugary treats aren’t going to help your waistline or your gut health. Seriously, if you want a sweet treat, have an occasional glass of wine, or do the MIND diet and have a small glass of wine daily. (No kidding, this is part of the anti-Alzheimer’s diet!)
Now, go take stock – what’s in your fridge and cabinets? It should be mostly legumes, fruits and veggies that your system can tolerate, a lesser amount of healthy cuts of meat, fish, and poultry (as in, grass-fed, MCS certified or pastured), and fewer carbs.
For example, I LOOOOOVE pasta and was raised with eating it every few days. Today, I try instead to eat bean pasta or spaghetti squash. (This is not for everyone – my husband won’t get on board!) If your kids love pasta, you can make this switch depending on their age. (Kids love the sauce mostly!) For others, it might take some time, but again, if you experiment with different vegetables and love it, then they’ll likely follow suit!
3. Drink Your Water!
I’ve heard you need to drink anywhere from 50-70% of your body weight! That’s a lot of water but again, the kids are watching! I love drinking water because my dad made a ritual of it: special glass with a handle, loaded with ice cubes, that sat out all day and no one, I mean NO ONE was allowed to touch it. (I did one time and that’s one of the rare times I incurred Dad’s wrath before my teen years.)
So go ahead, make your water drinking a daily ritual. And make sure it’s clean water too, ok? You can buy a special glass, keep a bottle with you at all times, drink seltzer with fruit, eat water veggies, consider buying a water cooler – whatever it takes to make sure you get your daily intake of water.
4. Sleep – It’s Not Just For Kids!
Parents agonize over getting their kids to sleep…it took Zoe until she was 5 to sleep through the night!! We know that our kids require this health habits, but when it comes to our needs, we just stay up as long and as late as we like. But impaired sleep can affect everything, from your heart health to your focus, your productivity, and your mental well-being, not to mention derailing your workout. If you don’t know why you aren’t sleeping, you have to solve this issue. Some possible contributors include:
- adrenal fatigue
- sleep apnea
- dietary issues
- bladder problems
- stress and overwhelm
- poor mattress
- other health issues, like restless leg syndrome
Getting to the bottom of stress or physical health issues is critical in making your sleep better. If you’re not sure of the cause, consult with your doctor.
5. Well Care When You’re Sick
Now I’m going to say something you won’t like: take care of yourself when you are sick! Way too many people simply keep their same schedule and then dose with OTC drugs. Unfortunately, you are often extending the life of your illness by doing this because you are suppressing the body’s system for clearing illness – such as a fever. Naturally, we all have commitments we cannot avoid, but as much as possible, use sick time for when you are truly sick. Or work from home, if you can. Rest, relax, and make a fresh bowl of chicken soup.
I’ve told this story before but last year, we all got some version of the stomach flu. My kids, the healthiest people in our home because of my diligence, were each sick for about 8 hours. I was sick for nearly 25. My husband? 3 days. It matters what you eat, how you sleep, and if you take care of your gut health, just like exercise matters too. None of us did any OTC drugs; we just chilled out and let it runs its course, mainly because when you’re only sick for a few hours, you don’t even think about the doctor (although my husband did)! In fact, he might have gone – I can’t remember.
6. Taking Care Of Your Own Mental Health
And finally, you need to take care of your brain. That means a lot of things, including getting exercise, good food, enough sleep, and having healthy relationships. It also means:.
- Taking time for self-care and moments of rest or relaxation throughout your day.
- Managing your daily stress.
- Cutting back on an oppressive workload or overcommitment.
- Working through issues that impact your mental health, like childhood trauma
PARENTING THROUGH YOUR CHILDHOOD TRAUMA
Not everyone has childhood trauma but for those who do, it’s important you deal with your trauma so those issues don’t impact your family in a negative way. Making the connection between childhood trauma and adult illnesses and relationship problems can be challenging, but it can be tremendously freeing. It can guide you on the road to creating healthy habits for your kids. It also enables you to start the healing process.
If you feel like you’ve been swimming against some invisible current for years, it’s a relief to know where it may be coming from, says science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa in Psychology Today’s online forum.
Taking the quiz on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is the first and most important step toward healing, according to Nakazawa. Understanding whether you’ve been affected by childhood trauma can help you start taking steps to undo it – and perhaps try some new approaches with your children. Here is some science-based advice from StressHealth.org:
- Realize it’s not your fault. As experts on trauma have pointed out, “It’s not about what is wrong with you; it’s about what happened to you.” This is the start of a healing journey.
- Stressed out? Take some deep breaths. Stopping what you’re doing for a few minutes to breathe tamps down your stress response, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Encourage your kids to breathe deeply or even join you in a few minutes of meditation. If you find you’re continually on the verge of a meltdown, consider seeing a mental health professional for help.
- Build in some rituals. Scientists say that routines and rituals are critical for healthy child development. Cooking and eating together, playing Scrabble and other board games, taking a walk around the neighborhood, reading to your kids at bedtime, even sorting clothes together – all these “anchoring” rituals can help create closer, more loving relationships with your children, according to Barbara Greenberg, PhD, a teen, child, and family psychologist licensed in Connecticut and New York. All of these ideas are a great foundation for building healthy habits for your kids. Participating in community traditions that build a sense of belonging is also invaluable, says ACEs expert Dr. Robert Sege of Massachusetts.
- Consider taking a parenting class, especially if you often find yourself yelling or acting in ways you’d rather not. A recent study found these five parenting programs especially effectivein reducing drug use, aggression, and anxiety in the teen years. “Of course, it’s important to realize that when it comes to parenting, not one size fits all,” said Dr. Greenberg. “The class has to make sense for your parenting style and temperament. If the class doesn’t feel right for you, try a different one.”
- Give your child more undivided attention. Start by putting away your smartphone when you talk with your kids – or when you’re interacting with your baby. Scientists have found that babies develop back-and-forth “conversations” without language by the time they’re 11 months old, but they need to know that you’re listening. She may not develop the needed brain circuitry if her brain isn’t stimulated by talking with an attentive parent, so be sure your phone doesn’t come between you and our child.
With these steps and knowledge of your own childhood trauma, you’ll likely find it easier to help your child be happy and resilient.
Remember that healthy habits for kids start with you and your physical and mental health. Learn how to heal from toxic stress at Stress Health.