Thriving Child, Thriving Mother
As parent, we often feel pressure to “get it right.” Raising little humans is a big job, and at time we have more questions than answers. We deliberate over what we feed them, where it comes from and how it’s prepared. We consider how much exercise, screen time, study time and play time they need and get—all in an effort to raise healthy happy families.
Here are top tips to help your child thrive this year and beyond:
1. Ensure Your Child Gets Enough Sleep
Sleep deficit exacerbates hyperactivity, distraction and restlessness in children. Ideally, school-aged children should be sleeping 10 to 12 hours per night, while adolescents should get eight to 10 hours per night. Create a consistent calming nighttime routine that includes time away from screens (computers, tablets, and TVs). Incorporate bath time, reading time or journaling sessions to help calm your child’s mind and promote restful sleep.
2. Avoid Processed and Sugary Foods
Excessive sugar intake and junk food diets are linked with hyperactivity and inattention. Limiting sweets to special occasions such as birthday parties, and following a whole foods diets on a day-to-day basis can make a difference. Emphasize plenty of vegetables and fruit. Incorporate goods fats such as nuts, seeds and olive oil. Limit red meat to a few times per month and consume more fish. Eat unrefined whole grains and legumes.
3. Set Limits On Screen Time
Setting screen time limits is a complicated issue for parents in a world where screens are ubiquitous. It is your job to encourage healthy behaviors and limit unhealthy ones – sometimes this means making unpopular decisions like limiting your children’s screen time. Make these tough decisions for your children. And always go the next step of explaining why you have made the decision – this will help them follow through and someday choose it for themselves.
• Create “Technology-Free Zones” – Establish zones in your house where you just don’t allow electronics, like smartphones and laptops. For example, the dining room can be a great technology-free zone that is reserved for meals and family conversation. Don’t allow a TV, video game system or computer in your child’s bedroom. It’s impossible to monitor screen media use if it’s allowed in the bedroom. This includes hand-held devices that many children use late at night, which can interfere with their sleep.
• Set Aside Times to Unplug – Set aside times for the entire family to become unplugged from technological devices. For example, the dinner hour or an hour before bedtime can be great times for the entire family to have quality time together without TV, video games and computers.
• Encourage Other Activities. And provide the necessary resources (books to read, board games, art supplies, and/or sporting equipment).
4. Get Them Active With Outdoor Activity
This might be in the form of family hikes, bike rides through your neighborhood, a trip to the playground or a game of catch with all the kids on the block. Exercise helps boost serotonin and balance cortisol and dopamine levels in the body. These hormones have an important role in controlling mood, behavior, stress levels and our sleep-wake cycle. Spending time outdoors can play a role in laying the foundations for children to become happy, healthy adults.
5. Nourish Their Interests
Talk to your kids about what activities they like and enroll them in a class that reflects these interests. Once they’re in an environment they enjoy, they will excel and flourish.
6. Establish Routines
When you child has a set routine, she knows what to expect and will be more likely to go through her day in a relaxed and calm manner. Routines are an important part of any child’s life because they help children develop a sense stability, security and order within their environment. Children learn what to expect at various times in the day and as they begin to participate in these routines, they will experience a sense of control and satisfaction at being able to perform part of or all of the tasks associated with increasing independence. Routines are also effective in managing negative behavior particularly when it comes to dealing with transitions into new tasks. Routines allow children to emotionally prepare for changes that are to come. For example, carve out an hour before bedtime for non-stimulating activities like taking a bath or reading. Your child will know that certain things happen as he gets ready for bed and as he progresses through the routine, he will also know what is expected of him when the task is completed.