Family Resolutions to Live By

 

This year I’m resolving not to tell you anything you don’t already know. At risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to recommend doing these three things in 2013:

1.    Eat better
2.    Get more exercise
3.    Spend more time together as a family

My guess is that, if I left it at that, we’ll be sitting here next January talking about the same things. Resolutions are often dependent on a turning-over–a-new-leaf mentality that passes when the calendar flips to February and they don’t fit into the reality of our lives (it’s hard to go to the gym every day after work when you have to pick the kids up from daycare and get home to make dinner). We also try to make these changes independently, relying only on ourselves to count calories, get out for a run or schedule a family date-night.

So what if, this year, you make family resolutions instead of personal ones? By picking resolutions that have a direct impact not only on your personal health and well-being, but also on your entire family, you’ll feel more responsible for following through all year and you’ll have the added element of familial peer pressure to keep yourself—and each other—motivated.

Here are three resolutions that could go a long way toward improving your health and happiness, and some practical ideas for making them happen. I’ve broken them down into basic goals you can achieve with small changes to your lives and stretch goals you and your family can shoot for if you’re feeling competitive. Add your own ideas—and it’s totally fine (recommended, even) to change the approaches throughout the year.

boy appleEat better
I know, you’ve heard this before. But I can’t emphasize enough how important it is; not only are we in the midst of a really scary obesity epidemic, but a healthy diet can help prevent everything from heart disease to cancer and Alzheimer’s. Small steps like these can make a big difference:

Basic goals:

  • Add one extra serving of fruits or vegetables into everyone’s diet each day. Slice an apple and serve it with breakfast, insist on a few bites of vegetables with dinner, keep baby carrots handy for snacks.
  • Pack lunches and snacks instead of buying them, whenever you can. Start with once a week (doing it the night before makes it easier), and do more as it’s possible.
  • Plan meals together—and shop—as a family. That will make you less likely to get fast food. Again, start with what’s feasible, and work up.
  • Make changes in how you shop. Don’t buy soda. It’s not good for anyone, not even diet soda. Don’t buy chips and other junk food. If it’s in the house, it gets eaten. If it’s not, it doesn’t. Buy less juice (everyone should be having no more than one glass a day), and when you do buy it, make sure it’s 100 percent juice.
  • Check out the American Dietetic Association Web site for more ideas. Talk about them as a family, and pick the ones that are most appealing to you.

Stretch goals:

stockphotopro_721325UVR_1000_00_0731_jpgExercise
This is another one that we hear all the time for good reason. Exercise is absolutely crucial to overall health. Here, small steps can make a big difference.

Basic goals:

  • If it’s possible to walk instead of taking the car (to school, to a playdate, etc) do it.
  • Park the car a little farther away; take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Do one physical family activity every weekend (roller skating, family swim, walk around the block)
  • Play outside every day. This used to be a childhood routine; it’s not so much anymore, and it’s a huge lost opportunity for exercise. Reinstate it in your family (don’t let weather stop you—jumping in puddles and making snowmen are fun!).
  • Pick some sort of physical activity for each family member—basketball, karate, Zumba, whatever. Try out different things throughout the year.

Stretch goals:

  • Training for a race together! Lots of races are family-friendly
  • Don’t just try an activity—join a team! There are plenty of options for kids and parents

stockphotopro_092928kmp_a_chapple_chapplSpend more time together
Stronger relationships go a long way toward preventing stress and depression—and for kids, they can keep them out of trouble, and help them do well in school.

Basic goals:

  • Have more family dinners (studies show they are great for kids!). Have the kids help you cook.
  • Read bedtime stories (snuggled in bed even better). This isn’t just for little kids; reading chapter books aloud is fun too.
  • Have movie or game nights (stock up on popcorn)
  • Instead of doing chores or watching TV once the kids go to bed, spend a few minutes reconnecting with your spouse.
  • Check out local museums as a family. Let the kids pick. Eat lunch there.

Stretch goals:

  • Do an activity with one or more of your children, like a book club or an art class
  • Have a weekend mini-“staycation”: spend a night together in a local hotel. Find one with a pool. Go out to a restaurant, swim and watch movies until really late.
  • Institute a weekly family meeting to discuss issues and plans together.

The most important thing with all of these suggestions is to be creative and flexible. If one idea doesn’t work (the kids balk at museums, you don’t like Zumba), try another one. But keep trying. Show your kids (and yourself) that perseverance is possible—and that being healthy and happy is important. That, in and of itself, could make a big difference in everyone’s life—and not just in January.

by Claire McCarthy, MD  from Children's Boston Hospital