Health Take-Away: Family resolutions can strengthen everyone

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As we reflect on the year that ended a few weeks ago and look ahead, resolving to make changes not only for own personal good, but for our entire families, can strengthen our prospects for success. Making resolutions a family activity builds automatic support. When children know they're being heard, they will choose family resolutions that mean as much to them as they do to you. Just remember: adults should model behaviors they hope children will adopt. Here are a few resolutions to ponder together. Even one will make a difference.

- Streamline the morning routine. Engage every member of the household with age-appropriate responsibilities. Each person helps the family get out the door on time every morning by setting their alarms, having their clothes picked out and backpacks ready to go, helping with breakfast and doing whatever else it takes to start the day smoothly.

- Don't over schedule the family. You want your kids to be physically and mentally active. But there's a time to say no to over scheduling children. If individual exhaustion sets in and the pace for the family is overwhelming, it's time to slow down. Family down time is a worthy resolution and priority.

- Have at least two to three sit-down meals together per week. One way to slow the pace is to agree to a few nights each week when everyone is at the dinner table to share a meal, conversation and one another.

- Set family limits on all forms of screen time. Whether it's television, the internet or cell phone, addiction to electronic devices is a growing problem. Some experts advise limiting screen time to one hour per day. That may seem impossible, but small steps bring big benefits. Maybe start with a strict rule: No phones, computers and other devices at mealtime, including adults.

- Increase the volume of fruits and vegetables in the family diet. If you're the cook and take advantage of the many delicious, healthy recipes available online, this can be an easy one. The rule of thumb: fill at least half of everyone's plate with vegetables.

- Eliminate sugar-based and artificially sweetened carbonated beverages. It's well-documented that soda beverages are a major contributor to obesity and other health problems, starting very young. Indulge in non-caloric flavored waters and seltzers as an alternative to sugary drinks.

- Read together. It could be a shared, out-loud story reading or everyone curled up in the family room with their own book. If you're looking for ways to pull yourselves and your kids away from electronic devices, this is a wonderful way to spend time together.

- Exercise and play together. This doesn't necessarily mean piling all the kids in the car and heading to the gym. It could be as simple as a family stroll around the block, weekend hikes or other energetic adventures. Even family game nights can bring a fun, healthy new ritual to your household.

- Volunteer as a family. It's a way to teach the importance of helping others and the satisfaction of working together as a family. Whether it's a charity walk, a cleanup at a local trail, collecting goods for a food pantry or serving meals to the homeless, there's no shortage of opportunities.

- Get the sleep you need. Children and parents alike need at least eight hours of sleep a night to stay healthy and productive. If you can make that goal a family-wide resolution, it can eliminate the nightly go-to-bed, lights-out battle and put everyone to rest.

When it comes to resolutions, give yourself and your children permission to slip up and recover. No one's perfect. If you are able to demonstrate any of your resolutions at least 80 percent of the year, you will establish healthy habits that will last a lifetime for your family!



Linda Avalle is on the staff of Operation Better Start, a family service of Berkshire Health Systems.



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