An action takes between 18 and 254 days to become a routine, so you can see how developing healthy habits isn’t easy. You begin with small adjustments until they become second nature in the long run. If you can start them earlier, the better, which is why parents are responsible for teaching their kids good manners and instilling a love for vegetables early on.
Do you want your children to grow up well-rounded and well-adjusted? Here are healthy habits you can start at home.
1. Loving Exercise
Everyone knows exercise is good for you, but your tiny tots might not appreciate the concept of cardio. Transform physical activities into play with a quick game of tag. Encourage races, dancing, or sports. If your family’s current energy level can’t hack high-intensity workouts – yet! – a walk to the park might be a more manageable way to get everyone moving.
2. Promoting Quality Sleep
Maintain a proper sleep-wake schedule and stick to it, even on weekends. Research, including one by the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD), shows how sleep is essential for a child’s growth. Well-rested children are also less likely to become irritable. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children between three and five should get 10 to 13 hours of sleep daily, while school-aged children should get 9 to 12 hours of zzzs every night.
3. Focusing on Quality Time
It could be learning a new skill together or going out for a joy ride. Be intentional with your children by spending quality time with them. Do things they enjoy instead of doing what you want to do. Resist the urge to check emails and notifications to give loved ones your undivided attention.
Mum and dad need some adults-only quality time too. Why not leave the kids at home with the grandparents so you can wine and dine in peace, sans embarrassing noises from the bub?
4. Appreciating Screen-free Time
Establish boundaries when it comes to using devices. For instance, you might want to explain to your child that using their device is a privilege they can earn after finishing their homework. Limit gadget use to two hours a day and not more than 30 minutes in one go.
5. Prioritising Family Dinners
There’s no better time to put your phone down than during supper. With everyone’s busy schedules, having dinner as a family is a rare and golden opportunity. Ask about each other’s day to discover things about your loved ones you probably wouldn’t have known if you had grabbed dinner out after work. To give way to suppertime conversations, have some ground rules like no interrupting, judgment, or shop talk.
A study from the University of Florida lists many educational, health, social and behavioural benefits from family meals, such as healthier eating habits, reduced risk of depression, and better communication skills. So, switch off your phone and TV! You can check social media after you hang out with the fam.
6. Enjoying Whole Foods
Offer a good variety of whole grains and leafy vegetables in every meal. Adding some colour to their meals will also make them look more appetising. Never mind if they ignore the beans. Modelling healthy habits while eating will increase the chances of your mac and cheese-loving customers.
A healthy diet not only equips busybodies with a better immune system, but it also even lifts everyone’s moods (great news for squabbling sibs!). Research even shows a correlation between nutrition and mental wellbeing. Stuck in a funk? Eat your greens.
7. Encouraging a Love for Books
Develop reading habits early by setting time aside to read to your children. Babies who are read to develop better language skills, are given more opportunities for parent-child interaction, can learn better emotionally, and are better able to stick to routines. Feed your child’s mind and pick up a book.
8. Relishing Quiet Time
It may come as a surprise, but part of developing healthy habits is to learn how to, quite simply, do nothing at all. In a time when children are always busy with school and extra-curricular activities, provide some quiet time so they can learn the skill of being still.
Quiet time doesn’t mean you’re just going to fork over a tablet in exchange for the rare luxury of keeping them busy. To set up a space for quiet time, draw the blinds, let them read in bed or give them some time for individual pretend play.
9. Practising a Grooming Habit
While there isn’t a set deadline for your growing ones to master washing their hands and brushing their teeth, you can help them develop grooming independence by establishing routines. Rearrange your bathroom to make the sink and toilet more accessible to your little humans. No need for any major remodelling, something as simple as keeping a stool in the bathroom so they can potty on their own should do the job.
Establishing a grooming habit not only makes your kids independent but also more confident. As a parent, you should give them the tools to build their self-esteem – whether it’s guiding them to dress on their own or having their teeth straightened in the future. It’s also a good way to help teach your kids consistency. For instance, patient compliance is essential for any orthodontic treatment to be successful. Show them that patience and diligence are the secrets to a winning smile.
10. Seeing Life With Gratitude
There’s always something to gain from having a little more gratitude in your attitude, whether it’s in your young one’s heart or for the young at heart. Try starting a gratitude jar — everyone can drop a small note saying something to be thankful for each day. If your family is going through a challenge, you can journey through a hard time by counting blessings together.
Healthy habits might take time to develop, but once your family gets the hang of it, they’ll carry these practices to adulthood and beyond. Make some lifestyle tweaks here and there, and try your best to stick to them. It won’t always be smooth sailing, but you can rest assured knowing that making better choices now will be worth a lifetime of success in the future.
FCS2324/FY1362: Benefits of Family Meals. (n.d.).
Firth, J., Gangwisch, J. E., Borisini, A., Wootton, R. E., & Mayer, E. A. (2020). Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing? BMJ, m2382.
Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998–1009.
Paruthi, S., Brooks, L. M., D’Ambrosio, C., Hall, W., Kotagal, S., Lloyd, R. M., Malow, B. A., Maski, K., Nichols, C. D., Quan, S. F., Rosen, C. J., Troester, M. M., & Wise, M. S. (2016). Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on the Recommended Amount of Sleep for Healthy Children: Methodology and Discussion. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 12(11), 1549–1561.