The new year is a traditional time for resolutions, and it’s an ideal time to consider what we can do differently to improve our family’s overall health and well-being. There are four key areas where even small changes can have a positive impact: nutrition, exercise, sleep and screen time.
And to ensure resolutions really ‘stick’ and become routine, it’s wise to make them SMART! That is: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. For example, we might resolve to try one new fruit or vegetable twice a month, or stop off at the park once a week to play for 15 minutes.
If you brainstorm with your family and agree on just one SMART resolution for each of these four areas, that’s a big step in the right direction!
Nutrition. Our bodies require quality fuel. Aim for five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Create a ‘healthy-snack zone’ in the refrigerator and keep it stocked. Replace sugary sodas and juices with sparkling water. Eat together: add one more family meal per week to your schedule.
Exercise. Preschoolers need at least two hours of active play and kids and teens need at least an hour every day. Adults need exercise too! Mix it up and have fun with a weekend bike ride, a romp with the dog, a swim session at the local pool, an after-dinner walk or a living room dance party.
Sleep. (PDF) We all need quality sleep to feel our best, and kids require a lot for healthy growth and development so try inching up bedtime just 15 minutes earlier. Help everyone ease into sleep mode by turning off all devices one hour before bed. Create a calming pre-sleep routine such as a bath or shower and a soothing story.
Screen Time. Set screen-time limits that are right for your family, and help your child choose quality media. Visit HealthyChildren.org/MediaUsePlan for help. Ban screens from kids’ bedrooms and during meals, and establish screen-free household time for cooking, exercise, music, hobbies, games and books. Parents can model good habits with their own devices.
When we make positive changes in these four areas, there’s a bonus benefit: more quality family time. And of course, resolutions aren’t just for the new year. Anytime is a great time to commit to positive changes, including right now!
If you have an Alexa smart speaker at home, a new skill called ‘Flu Doctor’ can help your family prevent and treat influenza. The app was built by the digital health innovation teams at Seattle Children’s and Boston Children’s Hospital. As flu season progresses, Flu Doctor provides weekly updates to bring you the most current information. To enable it, first open the Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet. Tap the menu icon (three stacked lines). Select ‘Skills & Games.’ Search for ‘Flu Doctor.’ Select ‘Enable.’ Finally, say “Alexa, open Flu Doctor.” The flu can be unpredictable, so it’s best to layer protections: get a flu shot, wash your hands, stay home when you’re ill, and avoid those who are sick.
Learn more about Flu Doctor.
It’s recommended that teen girls start seeing a gynecologist – a doctor who focuses on female reproductive health – between the ages of 13 and 15, whether or not they are sexually active. Girls don’t need a Pap test or a pelvic exam until they’re 21, so why start visits at a fairly young age? Gynecologists can help teenage girls to understand their bodies and how to care for themselves. They can help a teen understand what is normal, so they can notice any problems such as changes in their menstrual periods. If there are any problems, the doctor can find them early, so they can be treated. It’s ideal to build a doctor-patient relationship over the years so the doctor really understands the patient’s health and can answer any questions she has about her changing body. These specialists can also teach teens how to prevent infections and pregnancy if they are sexually active. For women of all ages, a gynecologist is an important partner in staying healthy!
Visit Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology to learn more.
In today’s super-connected digital world, how can we be sure our kids aren’t sharing too much? protecting their safety, their privacy and their reputations requires parents to be vigilant. It deserves thoughtful teaching and honest, ongoing discussions. Before they ever enter the digital world, kids must understand this basic rule: If you don’t want the whole world to see it, don’t post it or text it. Even if that photo or message is intended for just one person, it can be shared widely. Imagine your teachers, your grandparents and strangers seeing it. (And it will be out there forever!) Work with your child to set strict privacy settings, but don’t rely on those settings to keep them safe. Kids themselves must be alert: If you receive a text from an unknown person, do not respond; block the number. Don’t accept friend requests or approve follow requests from anyone you don’t know. Do you want the whole world to know your location? If not, don’t announce it or post photos of it, and be sure your app isn’t automatically reporting your whereabouts. In addition to protecting their own safety, privacy and reputation, kids must do the same for others: Never text or post or pass along private information or unkind comments about anyone. Don’t post anyone’s picture or tag them without their permission. Technology and social media are everchanging, and kids are often more tech-savvy than their elders. So, parents must stay current on which sites and apps kids are using – and understand how they work. More than that, we need to be tuned in to our kids and keep these important conversations going.
Learn more about screen time.
Plagiocephaly is a flat spot on the back of a baby’s head caused by pressure on the bones of the skull before or after birth. Because infants spend a lot of time sleeping and must be placed on their backs for safety, a flat spot may develop. Although it is often noticeable at 2 to 4 months of age, it is usually not a medical concern. To prevent it, give your baby lots of tummy time during their awake hours, and limit their time in strollers and infant seats when it’s not necessary. By repositioning the head as much as possible, plagiocephaly usually improves between 4 and 7 months of age. Remember, always put a baby to sleep on their back, in a bare crib with a firm, tight-fitting mattress.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24. The hopeful news is that there are actions we can all take to help prevent it. While many people fear that asking someone if they are considering suicide will put the idea in their head, that’s not the case. Asking does not increase the risk of suicide and in fact can be the difference between life and death. It offers relief to someone who may be struggling and helps them feel noticed and heard. In our own homes, we can reduce the risk by removing pills and fi rearms from the house. If someone is in immediate danger of harming themselves, don’t leave them alone; call 911 or take them to an emergency room.
Visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline to learn more. Put the Crisis Text Line, 741741, in your phone contacts and have your teen do the same.
Almost all kids have temper tantrums now and then. While the frequency and intensity may vary, tantrums often happen when a child is overwhelmed, hungry, tired or frustrated – and unable to communicate their feelings. Tantrums are upsetting and tiring for everyone, so it’s worth it to put some eff ort into preventing them. How? Give your child a feeling of control by offering choices; help them notice and name their feelings; give specific praise when you notice positive behaviors; ensure they are well-rested and fed; be consistent with limits and consequences; make promises only if you’re sure you can keep them. And of course, model calmness yourself when you are frustrated.
Find resources to support you with parenthood on our positive parenting page.
Prevent tip-overs: Mount flat-screen TVs to the wall and place box-style TVs on low, stable pieces of furniture. Use anti-tip brackets, wall straps or braces to secure furniture.