Off The Couch!
Healthy 2017 Goals Should Be A Family Affair
Setting New Year’s resolutions and sticking to them is not just for adults. Children and teens can also benefit from making goals for improvement that can have lasting effects for years to come.
“Making New Year’s resolutions can be very beneficial for children because it teaches them the importance of setting goals and following through,” said Lizy Varughese, M.D., pediatrician with Cook Children’s in Lewisville. “Not only can goals be applied to a child’s eating habits and physical activities, but they also help teach important life lessons about the benefits of planning ahead and the success that comes from it.”
For many parents, taking time to sit down and discuss with a child the lessons learned during the past year, both good and bad, can serve as valuable, teachable moments and deepen family bonds. Because societal factors such as TV, friends and the Internet can strongly influence a young child’s behaviors, it’s crucial that parents help young ones map out and focus on a few simple, healthy resolutions that can later translate into positive behaviors as children grow and develop.
Keeping It Real
While it may be tempting as a parent to jump ahead and make a list of New Year’s resolutions for your children rather than waiting for them to develop a list on their own, empowering your kids to creatively embrace this time-honored tradition can be filled with good times and great memories.
Encourage children to start with a list of broader, bigger goals such as eating less junk food, spending less time playing video games, picking up their toys or making better grades. No matter how far-fetched goals may seem at first glance, parents should stay open-minded and flexible, resisting the urge to criticize their child’s resolutions. Remember, keeping the mood light and enthusiastic makes goal setting seem less like work and more like fun.
From there, Dr. Varughese suggests children break down their resolutions into small bites by using journaling as a method to help solidify goals.
“Begin the new year by writing down specific goals for eating and participating in sports and exercise activities,” Dr. Varughese said. “Children are more likely to complete a task if it’s written down and there is accountability for their progress. It’s also important to be flexible so the parent can help kids form a more attainable goal if a particular goal is not met or seems difficult for the child.”
Basic resolutions for the entire family may include:
- Eating meals at the table as a family at least four times a week.
- Preparing more meals at home.
- Limiting fast food and takeout.
- Packing lunches for school and work.
- Planting a garden.
- Going for a family bike ride, walk, swim or hike two times a week.
Lead By Example
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children begin to copy their parent’s behavior by age 3.
The greatest impact a parent can have on his or her child is by being a good example,” Dr. Varughese said. “Parents can make their own resolutions with their children and even participate in physical activities together. Taking an evening walk with them is not only a great health benefit, but it can also deepen the emotional bond they share.”
Read these New Year's tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics for children and youth for preschoolers, 5-12 and 13 and older.
About the source
Lizy Varughese, M.D., attended Texas A&M University and received a B.S. in Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Varughese attended medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, Texas and completed her residency at Stony Brook University Hospital, Long Island, New York. She was then appointed Clinical Professor of Pediatrics from 2005-2006. After that, she joined a private practice in New Jersey for five years. She moved back to her hometown of Dallas, Texas, and joined Cook Children's Physician Network in Lewisville in 2013.
She is married to Dr. Shane Varughese and has two children, Noah and Sarah. Dr. Varughese enjoys photography, cooking, and church activities. Her passion in life is taking care of children and educating families on preventative care and battling childhood obesity.