Keep your family in top form with these family health habits.
Think through some possible worst-case scenarios and plan how you would deal with them. This is especially important if it’s an older adult or single-parent household. Who should be called? Where are the important papers, like wills and power-of-attorney? Who will take the kids or pets? What would you need to take in case of an evacuation? Write it out, include names and phone numbers of who to call, and put it where you can find it. Everyone should know what’s in the plan and where to find it.
“Staying healthy should include personal and family history, as well as your own values and needs,” says Dr. Jenni Levy, an Allentown, Penn., internist and spokesman for the American Academy of Communication in Healthcare. To find a doctor who will treat you as an individual, ask friends who share your values. During an initial office visit, pay attention to whether you feel comfortable. Does the doctor listen and understand your priorities? “It’s not just about credentials,” she says. “It should be a personality and values match.”
Ask kids what they think is the best choice and encourage and reward good choices. Make everyone feel like they are part of the solution, not being singled out as the only ones who have to follow healthy-living rules. “My daughters love to call me out if I am eating junk food,” McEwen says. “The statement we use in our house is `Is that nourishing to your body?’” If the answer is “No,” then the girls say, “Why are you putting garbage in your body? Your body isn’t a garbage can.” It’s gotten everyone to eat better.”
Find physical activities kids enjoy, from walks to tennis to climbing trees. It’s not just about team sports, it's about encouraging activity and letting kids pursue those they enjoy most.
“I wanted to do more than watch my daughters play,” says Dr. Lisa Scott, a professor of public health policy at State University of New York at Stony Brook. “I wanted to be active, too, and set that example.” She takes karate lessons, and her two daughters, ages 6 and 10, do ice skating and gymnastics. Setting an example also means you take care of yourself--especially important if you are a single parent or caring for an older parent.
Recognize irritability, withdrawal, anger and defiance as signs of stress in your children, says Dr. Peter Langman, psychologist and author of Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters. Talking is important, and once you get kids talking, “listening and validating what they are expressing is really important,” Langman says.
“We keep cherries, not cookies, on the counter,” says Shelly McEwen, a public health educator, health and wellness coach and mother of two girls, ages 16 and 11, from Regina, Saskatchewan. Also, keep a menu plan, which makes meals easy and routine, and keeps last-minute fast food forays to a minimum. “We cook to freeze on Sundays, so there is always healthy food that everyone knows how to make,” McEwen says.
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