Written by Clinical Assistant Professor Dayna LePlatte, M.D.
All caring, loving parents work daily to make sure they have a healthy family. Most of us make sure our children are clean, clothed appropriately and eating delicious, healthy food. We make sure they wash their hands, get adequate sleep, drink their water and take their vitamins.
Yet, there are some other things that we should be thinking about as we head into the next couple of months. Let’s explore a few other ideas that are important for all parents to embrace as we work each day to create the best lives for our children.
As we head into the colder months it is tempting to wrap up in our cozy blankets and relax in a favorite chair. Yes, it is OK to get comfy and cozy. Yet we must stay active. Regular exercise helps to prevent or manage many health problems. It will give you more energy and promote better sleep. Need an emotional lift? Exercise improves our mood. It stimulates chemicals in the brain that help you feel more relaxed, less anxious and happier. Talk to your doctor about what kind of exercise is best for you and your child. Even a brisk walk can be enough to help you feel better.
Too much screen time takes away from learning, play time, studying and exercise. All forms of media affect how children and teens think, learn and feel. Work with your primary care provider to determine the benefits and risks of screen time for your family. Parents have the power to decide what media use is best for their family. Typically, one to two hours is the max for children over 2. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 2 should not watch digital media. I understand that there are times when screens can be helpful; give them a few choices of shows that you believe are appropriate.
Eat meals together on a regular basis
Families are very busy and constantly on the go. We are balancing jobs and afterschool activities. Make it a priority to connect with your children on a regular basis. It can be easy do over a meal. Normalize check-ins with you children. Create a space where they can share what is happening in their world. Be curious. Take time to delight in them. Listen. Laugh together. These acts can help increase self-esteem. As an added bonus, eating together can lead to healthier eating habits.
Take care of yourself!
Parents, this point may be the most important. We must take care of ourselves. It is easy to get caught up in the daily grind of taking care of everyone else. However, we must remember to put ourselves first. We must schedule our self-preservation time and we each need to figure out what self-preservation looks like. Is it getting a manicure? Writing? Gratitude? Me Time? Therapy? We must refuel ourselves so that we can pour our best selves into our families. We must model what healthy coping and self-care looks like. We are our children’s first teachers, mentors and coaches. In the midst of all the chaos of this current world, we must be kind to ourselves.
Dr. Dayna LePlatte is currently a clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan, medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and mother of two incredible girls. She is passionate about sharing health and wellness information with others.