Five tips for adopting a healthy family lifestyle

The month of May is mental health month so we have asked some of our experts from our pediatric psychology department to guest blog throughout the month about issues related to kids and mental health! Be sure to check back each week for a new topic!

Now that Winter is finally behind us, and longer days and warmer weather are here, it is a great time to make healthy lifestyle changes. With 1 out of 3 kids now identified as overweight or obese in our country, there is no time like the present to help your child and your entire family adopt healthier lifestyle behaviors. The younger that kids learn healthy lifestyle behaviors, the more likely they are to adopt these healthy habits and make it a part of their own routine.

Adopting healthier lifestyle changes may seem overwhelming at first, but here are some helpful tips to make this doable for you and your family:

  1. Set a goal. This should be a short-term, detailed, realistic goal, focusing on a behavior that you can control, and that you and your family are confident that you can complete. For example, instead of having a goal, “We are going to eat healthier,” try a goal of “We will try 2 types of new fruits or vegetables this week.”   Accomplishing one small goal, can increase your motivation to continue to set and reach goals in the future!
  2. Change your environment.  If your goal is to eat healthier, then get the junk food out of your house! If the less healthy food options aren’t available at home, it is much harder to make an unhealthy food choice.  Set your family up for success!
  3. Model positive behaviors.   Kids learn by observing their parents and other adults in their lives. If you want your kids and your family to be healthier, be a good role model and practice what you preach!  We can’t expect our kids to eat healthier, if we don’t ourselves.
  4. Incorporate physical activity into a fun, family activity.    Maybe you can plan going for an after-dinner walk or play catch in the yard. How about trying to find a new park or hiking paths to explore as a family on the weekend?  Making physical activity fun, will make it more likely to be a habit to stick around.
  5. Be positive!  Changing lifestyle behaviors, can be difficult. Give your kids (and yourself) positive words of encouragement to keep up your motivation to maintain changes. Notice the positive changes that have come as a result of your effort, and make it a point to verbalize the positive changes to your child.

By: Sarah Highstein, Psy.D

Dr. Sarah Highstein is a pediatric psychologist at Dayton Children’s Hospital where her primary role is within the diabetes team.  She received her doctorate at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and completed her fellowship at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Her primary interests encompass working with kids with medical conditions and helping families achieve healthy lifestyle goals.

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