With the new year, maybe you’re looking for a few easy habits that will help make your family healthier. You can do simple things to improve your family’s health—and that includes their physical, mental and spiritual health.
The new year is a perfect time to find easy ways to break your family’s bad habits and instill some good habits.
The kids do their homework on their way to piano lessons, your family meal is often eaten in front of the TV, and the ﬂoor of the family room is covered with shoes, game pieces, and newspapers. Most families don’t strive to serve frozen TV dinners every night or purposely ignore the clutter that builds up at home. But busy schedules, growing kids, and any change in lifestyle can trigger the onset of a bad habit. So, how do we teach our kids good habits in the midst of all our bad ones?
“It’s really not the kids that are the issue,” says Laura Gauld, parent of three, who coordinates national parenting workshops derived from her book The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have. “Once we get parents where they need to be, their children will be inspired by their parents’ growth.” Gauld’s book is built around ten core beliefs on how families can ﬁnd a balance between character and achievement and offers families an opportunity to find strategies to their most difficult family challenges.
“What we try to do is help parents focus on themselves as the primary teachers and the home as the primary classroom,” says Gauld, who adds that families who can confront their bad habits can change their ways and influence their children.
Recognize any of these bad habits in your family? If so, try these suggestions for turning them around.
Bad habit: The kids eat in the car on the way to soccer practice, standing at the kitchen counter, or in front of the TV. “We can’t beat ourselves up for being on the go, but the action of making an effort to sit down as a family, even once or twice a week, is really up for success.”
New habit: Plan family meal times and make an effort to sit down together at least half the nights each week. Have kids help find slow-cooker recipes or easy soup and sandwich menus they can help prepare and cook. Assign each family a task (Dad is in charge of dessert, Mom makes the main course and the kids can place biscuits on a pan, set the table or pour the beverages). Turn off the ringer on the phone, light candles, bring out the china, and make it special at least once a week.
Bad habit: Mom works late most nights, Dad is drowning in home improvements, and Junior is signed up for ﬁve extracurricular activities. “We aren’t very good at saying no,” says Gauld. “But when you get going and put too many things on your calendar you become a slave to that schedule and no one is served.”
New habit: Families need to take time out of their hectic schedule, and make time for each other. Before your monthly agenda books up, set aside some time for R & R in permanent marker, just like you would for one of your other obligations. Making a commitment to zone out in front of the TV together, read a book at night or play a family game of Monopoly is just as important as any meeting you have during the week.
Bad habit: You drive to school, the grocery store, even your neighbor’s home just two blocks away. The kids could walk home from a friend’s house, but they call you for personal limo service every time.
New habit: Ask your family each time you set off on an excursion if you can walk instead. Encourage children to walk to school, the park, even to the convenience store for a gallon of milk to keep your family exercising and teach kids to appreciate the ride. If you have to drive, build in some extra time, park half way to your destination, and get some fresh air as you walk across the parking lot.
Bad habit: Dad’s birthday came and went. Your anniversary passed by without a card. It’s easier to deal with the guilt of missing special days than the pressure of planning a big celebration. “Some of the most special things are done when people work together,” comments Gauld, who adds that the achievement culture drives us to think that special events need to be big.
New habit: Think small when planning a party and ask for help from other family members. Develop a family celebration day that ﬁts into everyone’s schedule each month to honor special events: anniversaries, sports victories, birthdays, and good grades.
Bad habit: The dining room table is stacked with papers. The ﬁsh tank is dirty, and you can’t see the ﬂoor in the children’s rooms. “The home needs to be a cherished place,” says Gauld, who notes that the home is often treated as a way station. “There is a principle of ownership and respect for our things that we need to teach,” and parents need to lead way for kids.
New habit: Dedicate one or two hours each weekend to a whirlwind tidy-fest. Get kids together, turn on music and hand out assignments. Dust and vacuum bedrooms, clean out backpacks and briefcases, and organize your closet so you’ll have clean clothes for the coming week. Each time, add one major chore- like raking leaves or organizing the toy chest – that the whole family can do together.
By Sharon Miller Cindrich