Now that the new year is upon us, many of us are focused on self-betterment, whether breaking bad habits or starting healthy ones. As parents, we are also responsible for the betterment of our children.
Here are seven things you can do to keep your kids healthy and happy in 2016:
1. Make Sure They Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is important for the whole family since it helps set our metabolism and resets our mood. Getting enough sleep is especially important for kids because it helps them grow. According to pediatrician and author Cara Natterson, if you are having trouble putting your kids to bed at night, emphasize that they will grow well when they sleep. "If your kids know that they grow when they sleep, they will put themselves to bed. I guarantee you," she says.
2. Use the 80-20 Rule for Healthy Eating
Robyn O'Brien, author of the best-selling book "The Unhealthy Truth," urges parents to recognize that they will not be able to control 100 percent of what their child eats. "Don't make perfect the enemy of good," she advises. "80 percent of the time, you try to do the best that you can. And then the other 20 percent of the time, you have to have the grace and flexibility to live in the real world, to know that these kids go to birthday parties. They're going to get stuff at school, and to be able to roll with that."
3. Explain Why Healthy Eating is Important
Instead of telling children to eat healthy foods, explain to them why it is important. If they know that certain foods will make them taller and stronger, or make their hair shinier, they will want to eat them. "Kids' relationship with food gets increasingly complicated as they get older," says Natterson. "If you start when they're very young by teaching them that food is about growing healthfully and having energy to get through the day and fueling their brain, then you're teaching them everything they need to know for the rest of their life."
4. Create Fun Opportunities for Exercise
Exercise is important for bone and muscle health, for creating positive emotions, alleviating stress and preventing diseases later in life. Most kids need about an hour of exercise each day. For kids dealing with control or focus issues (ADD, ADHD, or OCD), Dr. John Ratey recommends involving them in martial arts or ballet because "you get the benefit of the exercise, plus the focus and training for the attention system." Another benefit of exercise is that it has a positive effect on test scores. "We see scores go up with more time spent in exercise and less time spent on subjects," he says.
5. Teach Them to Hydrate
Our brains are 80 percent water, so hydration is extremely important, especially for growing little ones. A great way to teach your kids to stay hydrated is to have them look at their pee. Being hydrated means drinking enough so that your pee looks like water. Natterson tells kids, "Look at your pee. And if it's really yellow, go get a glass of water."
6. Open Your Windows
The air we breathe can have a profound effect on our mood and cognitive abilities, so it is important to keep it clean. Sometimes the air in our homes can be even more polluted than the air outside. Gigi Lee Chang, former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World, recommends opening windows, using fans and vents, and having indoor plants in the home to help clean and circulate the air.
7. Limit Their Sugar Intake
Finally, if you want to prevent your kids from getting sick this winter, try to minimize the amount of sugar in their diet. According to Dr. Jay Gordon, sugar interferes with the body's immune system by binding up the antibodies that the immune system needs to fight viruses. "A kid who's eating a high sugar diet is going to get sick more often," he says.
For more parenting tips, check out kidsinthehouse.com.