The start of a new year is a great time to help your kids focus on building good habits.
Families can sit together and pick out a few things that everyone would like to do as New Year’s resolutions. If the thought of “resolutions” sounds overwhelming, encourage kids to see them as goals — and make it fun.
“As a pediatrician and mother of three, I know the importance of setting healthy goals with children — and being realistic about those goals,” says pediatrician Lanre Falusi. “Kids also like to have something to work towards and have fun keeping sticker cards or getting praise or rewards when they achieve these goals, depending on their age.”
For example, if an 8-year-old reads every day for a week, he might choose the family movie on the weekend, Falusi suggests. Your preschooler may agree to eat more vegetables by drinking them in smoothies, which she and the whole family can enjoy.
Below are some healthy and positive goal setting ideas for kids depending on their age.
• I will do my best to tidy up my toys by putting them where they belong.
• I let my parents help me brush my teeth twice a day.
• I will wash my hands after going to the toilet and before eating.
• I will try new foods whenever I can, especially all different colored vegetables.
• I will learn how to help clear the table when I have finished eating.
• I will be kind to all animals. I will learn how to ask the owners if I can pet their animal first.
• I will always hold an adult’s hand when crossing the street.
• I will do my best to be nice to other children who need a friend or look sad or lonely.
• I talk to my parent or another adult I trust when I need help or am afraid.
Children, 5 to 12 years old
• I will drink water every day. I only keep soda and fruit drinks for special times.
• I wear my seat belt every time I get in a car. I sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am big enough to use a lap/shoulder belt.
• I will try to find a physical activity (such as playing tag, skipping rope, dancing or cycling) or a sport that I enjoy and do this at least three times a week.
• I will take care of my skin by putting on sunscreen and wearing a hat and sunglasses if possible.
• I always wear a helmet when I cycle, scooter or skateboard.
• I will try to be kind to children who may have trouble making friends by talking to them and inviting them to participate in activities.
• I tell an adult about bullying I see or hear and do what I can to keep the school safe for everyone.
• I keep my personal information safe and do not share my name, home address, school name or phone number online. I also never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer or phone without asking my parents if it’s okay.
• I will try to talk to my parent or a trusted adult if I have a problem or feel stressed.
• I promise to do my best to follow our house rules for video games and internet use.
• I will try to save time reading for fun.
Teens, 13 years and older
• I will try to eat two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables each day. I only drink soft drinks or fruit drinks at special times.
• I will do my best to take care of my body through enjoyable physical activity and eating the right types and amounts of food.
• When I have some free time for media, I will try to choose quality educational, non-violent TV shows and video games that I enjoy. I will spend only one to two hours a day – at most – on these activities. I promise to respect our video game and internet use house rules.
• I will try to get eight to ten hours of sleep that my body needs each night.
• I will do what I can to help in my community. I will spend some of my time helping others, working with community groups or others who help those in need. These activities will make me feel better about myself and my community.
• When I feel angry or stressed, I will take a break and find helpful ways to deal with the stress, such as exercising, reading, journaling, or talking to a parent or friend about my problem.
• When faced with a difficult decision, I will discuss my choices with an adult I can trust.
• If I notice that my friends are struggling, being bullied, or making risky choices, I will seek out an adult I trust so we can try to find a way to help.
• I will be careful who I choose to date. I will treat the other person with respect and not force him to do something he doesn’t want to do. I will not use force. In return, I expect to be treated the same.
• I will resist peer pressure to try cigarettes, e-cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol.
• I agree not to use a cell phone or text message while driving and to always use a seat belt.
“Involving children in decision-making and making it fun for the whole family can turn these New Year’s resolutions into long-lasting habits,” Falusi says.
• Children’s health is a continuous series. This week’s article is courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics. For more information, visit HealthyChildren.org.