Written by Jennifer Gruen MD
Most people make resolutions on New Year’s, but I find winter too depressing to embark on ambitious, life changing projects. Instead, I view October as a chance to work on change. It is a good time for kids to try a new sport or set goals for school, and for parents to resolve to change the way they approach the new school year.
Resolutions are notoriously hard to stick to. Remember to make your goals POSITIVE. State what you WILL do, not what you won’t do… “I will eat fruit for dessert 5 days a week,” instead of “I will eat less candy.” Make your goals specific, as in “I will run 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week,” instead of “I will exercise more.” And make goals measurable- “I will do an outdoor activity with the kids 20 minutes a day,” instead of “I will get the kids outside more.” Set end dates when possible- “I will organize my closet by next Saturday.” This approach works better for children too: they can make a chart and visually document their progress in areas such as reading, exercise, or eating more fruits and vegetables. Build in positive rewards such as special trips or choosing a meal.
Perhaps your family has overindulged on ice cream at the beach this summer. Fall is a good time to reassess your children’s eating habits and make simple, step-wise changes in what they consume. Make a single change at a time. First, cut out juices and sweetened drinks. The next week introduce whole grain breads and pastas. The third week show your kids how to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables at each meal. Resolve to pack a healthy lunch for school or work once a week. Then twice. Swap out the potato chips for dried fruit chips. Allow your kids chocolate milk once a week rather than everyday. Change your family’s milk jug from whole milk, to 2%, to 1%, and then skim- do it over time, cover the label, and they won’t notice the change.
Is your child spending too much time inside playing video games? Brainstorm ways to get them outside and moving. Be creative- if your child doesn’t want to do a team sport (or you would rather not spend a lot of money on classes or time driving there) challenge her to run around the house a few times, and see how many more rounds she can do each day. How many continuous jumps can he do with a jump-rope? How many hoops can she shoot without missing? The more interesting the activity, the more it will engage and challenge your child. My son hates playing soccer, but will do the same running around outside pretending to be Harry Potter playing Quidditch with his friends. A few hoops on sticks and we had a field!
The key to making all these resolutions work is making changes small and steady. How many pledges to lose 25 pounds in the New Year work? Aiming for a 5 (or even 1) pound weight loss is much more achievable, and avoids the feeling of failure that dooms many a diet. These small changes are also more likely to persist, and your whole family will feel a sense of accomplishment long before 2012 rolls around!
Dr. Gruen opened her practice, Village Pediatrics, in 2009, but prefers spending time creating fantastic kids birthday parties.