It’s already weeks into the New Year, and for many busy parents, trying to stick to your resolutions has proven to be a challenge. But rather than beat yourself up over skipping the gym again or forgoing a dry January, consider creating a more attainable goal that benefits everyone in your home. Putting your partner and kids at the top of your priority list may seem like a given, but when you factor in time spent enjoying each other’s company (instead of counting on drop-offs and pick-ups as “quality time,”), you’re bound to see your entire family in a whole new light.
Take Time to Make Time
Scheduling time together may seem scripted and insincere, but when the days are jam-packed with work, school and other commitments, the idea of enjoying each other’s company can get lost in the shuffle. When setting aside special time for your family, experts recommend keeping it simple. “Any activity that brings the family together for connection is key,” says Dr. Sherrie Campbell, a licensed counselor, psychologist and marriage/family therapist (www.sherriecampbellphd.com). “It doesn’t matter the activity as long as you are doing it together.” Possible suggestions include family movie night, game night or even clean-the-house day.
If possible, schedule activities on a weekly basis that everyone can be participate in, says Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services (www.comprehendthemind.com). She prefers a game night over a movie night since the former “requires there to be interaction. Another way to inspire quality time is baking and preparing healthy meals together,” adds Hafeez.
Put Down the Devices
With parents aiming to make mealtime an opportunity to be together, they must remember to be present one-hundred percent—and that means no phones. “We often see parents on their phones during meals which sends the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ message that kids are never inspired by,” notes Hafeez. “When it is made a ‘family value’ that everyone supports and lives, then it becomes a normal behavior and in this case, a very positive one.”
Instead of staring at the screen between bites, engage your kids to talk about their day—both the good and the bad. Regardless of their age, children can put into practice the art of taking turns, listening and sharing their ups and downs with those who care about them best. “The highs are great and should be celebrated, but the lows let us into the hearts and minds of our children where we can encourage, guide and support them through something that may be difficult,” says Campbell. “It helps us connect at an even deeper level with them.”
When your kids bicker, tell them to cool off and go take a hike—and then join them. “Going for after-dinner walks is a great way to connect with your kids and burn off the calories,” says Hafeez. And if you are still determined to make weight loss part of your New Year’s resolution, it’s the perfect excuse to bundle up and head outdoors.
Did the kids get a new puppy for Christmas? Taking the dog for a walk counts as exercise and a chance to catch up on the day’s events.
And if a cold snap keeps you indoors for an extended period, follow Hafeez’s advice and indulge the kids with 10-minute morning dance sessions or a quick game of Simon Says. “This is a great, fast burst of fitness,” she says, adding that swapping any type of physical play for video games and screen time is a big plus.