Maybe things got lax during school vacation and the kids stayed up late playing video games. Or life has just gotten so hectic that you’ve had to rely on the TV as a babysitter and takeout meals to survive.
Whatever the reason, your family’s healthy habits have gotten off track. It’s happened to all of us. Fear not! You do have the power to re-establish your family’s healthy habits. It’s all about routine.
"Having a predictable routine is essential for every family," says Eric M. Anderman, PhD, a professor of educational psychology at Ohio State University.
It's important for your kids' physical and mental health -- and yours, too, say experts. Here’s how to get your family back into healthy habits and gain some peace of mind.
Rule #1 -- Start small and make changes slowly.
Yes! You’ve decided to take control of the situation and you’re ready to go! Great! Deciding to get back on track can be hard to do -- nice job. Yes, getting started right away is a good idea, but go easy. If your home life has gotten chaotic, trying to change all the rules overnight is likely to backfire. You don’t have to think of it as all or nothing. Make it easier on yourself and your kids -- take it slow.
"Establish the family routine one piece at a time," says Anderman. "Once you get the first change down, move on to the next one." For example, work on bedtime and then phase in the other routines over a few weeks. Setting smaller goals sets you up for success, and you’ll be more likely to keep at it!
Two Family Routines to Focus on:
Recommit to bedtime. During a vacation or a stressful time at home, bedtimes can get later and later. Kids between ages 5 and 10 need more sleep than you think -- 10 to 11 hours a night.
"The effect of sleep deprivation on kids is really quite serious," Anderman says. "Their brains just don't function normally on five or six hours of sleep." If your kids are well-rested, they'll be happier, more active, and less likely to overeat. All can help keep them at a healthy weight. Getting back into the swing of things will also be a lot easier if they're not exhausted and grumpy.
How to do it: To make sure your kids are getting enough sleep, set a bedtime and stick to it. Re-establish the rule. For example, “Bedtime is at 8.” Then help your kids wind down for bed by getting back in sync with their normal bedtime routine. Falling in line with the ritual of brushing teeth, getting a glass of water, and reading one book -- or whatever your family’s ritual is -- can help your kids and their bodies recognize it is time for sleep. Keep in mind that whatever bedtime you pick, if you can stick to it on the weekends, too, it will make your life easier.
- Eat together. It's easy to let family meals slide when things get busy, but they're important. Family meals offer you a time to connect. There's also a clear health benefit. Studies show that kids who eat with their family tend to eat healthier and are less likely to be obese.