Today’s family faces many challenges. By building healthy habits you can strengthen family bonds and lay a strong foundation for your children’s future.
Last week, in part one of this series, I introduced How to Create Healthy Habits That Strengthen Your Family. I invite you to check out the first five healthy habits that have made a positive impact on my family’s life.
This week, I have five more successful habits that have helped my own family of eight kids, ages 14 to 26, sustain a healthy and happy lifestyle.
Healthy Habit #6: Get plenty of rest
Getting restful sleep every night is important to our physical and emotional health. Of course, with everything we need to do throughout the day, many of us deprive ourselves of the proper rest. Families are often so busy that they try to make extra time by sleeping less, creating a bad habit that can last a lifetime. By establishing a regular bedtime for yourself and your kids, you will be setting up an essential practice that will not only benefit you now, but when your child becomes an adult.
- Newborns should sleep 12 to 18 hours out of every 24 (as every new parent hopes)
- Toddlers under age 3 need 12-14 hours of sleep
- Preschoolers between ages 3 and 5 need 11-13 hours
- School-age children ages 5 to 10 need 10 to 11 hours per night
- Teens need about nine hours of sleep each night to function best
Most teens don't get nearly enough sleep. One study found that only 15 percent of teenagers reported sleeping eight-and-a-half hours on school nights.
My episode on sleep has suggestions on how you can help your family get the rest they need by rethinking your whole relationship with sleep. We invest our time and energy in educational and social experiences for our kids, yet monitoring the amount of sleep they get each night can easily fall off the radar.
If you have babies and younger children, reevaluate your nap and bedtime routines. If you have school-aged children or teens, take an honest look at your whole family's sleep habits. Getting good sleep is as important as eating well and going for your annual wellness checkups.
Healthy Habit #7: Promote financial responsibility
Helping your child establish solid financial habits from an early age is one of the best gifts you can give them. Doing so will make them better equipped to deal with their finances as adults. Instilling responsible financial habits can include starting a savings account for your child and teaching them to save for desired items rather than purchasing them on your credit card and paying it off over time.
I teamed up with Laura Adams, the host of QDT’s Money Girl podcast, for my episode Money and Kids: Tips for Teaching Children About Finances. One of the biggest takeaways from our conversation was that the perfect time to begin teaching your kids the ABCs of money is as soon as children start reading or attending preschool. She also recommends teaching your child the motto "Save, Spend, and Share."
You might allow young children to choose how they want to divide up their money. Often, children are very generous and want to share all of their money. As kids get older, parents should discuss with them how to allocate money based on their specific goals and ideals. However, young adults should get used to the idea of saving a minimum of 10% to 15% of their income—because that’s the ticket to reaching important long-term financial goals, like retirement, as adults.
Healthy Habit # 8: Build effective communication skills
Effective communication is a critical parenting skill and a valuable tool to teach your children from a young age. For starters, learn to be a better listener. Listening is a crucial skill for developing understanding and trust, the crux of excellent communication.
My episode, 6 Ways to Improve Family Communication, has tips on how to practice better communication skills. My first tip, make time for talking, is my favorite. Communicating takes time and effort. Take advantage of the down-time you experience with your family and put it to good use. Ask each other questions, learn about fears and aspirations, practice making solid eye contact with one another instead of talking while you’re texting.
Research shows that when communicating a message, the tone of voice is twenty times more important than the actual words of the message. And that's an important message for all of us to remember—whether we're parents of newborns or toddlers, not to mention tweens, teens, and beyond.
Nonverbal communication and the emotion it conveys account for more than 90 percent of what your child "hears," you say. The total impact of our parental messaging breaks down like this:
- 7% verbal (words)
- 38% vocal (volume, pitch, rhythm, and so on)
- 55% of body movements (mostly facial expressions)
Next time you are interacting with your kids—no matter whether you're pleased about something wonderful that happened or you're not thrilled about your daughter's experimental pink hair color—be mindful of your body language and the tone of your message.
Healthy Habit # 9: Set smart goals
Goal-setting is a powerful tool to keep us on the road to success. When we write our desires and aspirations down on paper (or keep a digital copy on our computer), we take responsibility for trying to achieve them rather than just daydreaming about them.
Just as important as writing down your goals is listing ideas and actions for how to make them happen, including assigning timeframes to bring them to fruition.
For a great way to create goals, watch this YouTube video.
The acronym SMART will motivate you and keep you on track. Great goals are:
Goals are always a work in progress, but they create a sense of purpose and direction in our lives. They help keep us motivated and ward off procrastination.
Healthy Habit #10: Refuel your tank
In general, families live full and scheduled lives. While there's nothing wrong with leading a rich, busy family life, it’s also essential to build in regular downtime to recharge our batteries.
Remember: It’s not necessary to accept every invitation or commitment that comes your way.
Get into the habit of incorporating self-time into every week. That goes for all members of the family! Let your children see you lying on the couch reading or sitting at the table doodling. Take walks at the beach or in the park together. Take time to refuel your own tank continually, and set a positive example for the rest of your family.