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Healthy Habits for 2013: Teaching Your Children the Importance of Goal Setting

As I stated in my previous blogs, a new year often means a new start and new goals for the upcoming months.  As adults (parents, goal settingteachers, therapists), we have a huge influence upon the lifestyles of the children around us that will impact the way that they are going to live. We need to make sure that we are teaching our children well so that they may learn how to make their own healthy choices in the future. This includes setting both short-term goals and long-term goals.

Here are a few simple tips to keep with you and your family as you reflect on the year ahead:

  • Help your child set goals that will be measurable and attainable. If the goal is unrealistic, the child will most likely not be successful in reaching it. He or she will give up before any progress is made. Start small and remember that you do not always have to aim for 100% completion of a task (e.g. By April, I will be able to tie 1 of my 2 shoes independently).
  • Set a variety of goals, including various skills and settings. For example, help your child to set goals for home, school, and within his extracurricular activities. Similarly, help your child to set goals related to both fine motor skills, gross motor skills and/or social skills (e.g. By the end of the month, I will ask two different friends to come over for a play date).
  • Try brainstorming different ideas by using probing questions. For example, ask your child, “Is there something one of your friends knows how to do that you would like to be able to do?” Another question may be, “What is one thing that is really easy for you at school and one thing that is challenging for you at school?” You may also make the question more specific, such as, “What is one way that you could improve your handwriting this semester?”
  • Make sure to hold one another accountable in working towards and reaching these goal. Celebrate when a family member is successful (e.g. write goals on a family wipe-off board or calendar).
  • Remember to praise even the smallest steps when working towards a goal and offer constructive feedback rather than negative feedback.  An example is “I really like how you’re keeping your eyes on the ball, now try to catch the ball with your hands rather than against your body!” rather than “You’re having a hard time catching the ball in your hands.”

As you can see, there are several easy ways to incorporate New Year’s resolutions and goal setting into your family’s daily activities! Make sure you are demonstrating the importance of creating attainable and meaningful goals to your children by making it a priority in your own life. Feel free to reach out to your child’s classroom teacher, sports coaches or therapist in order to collaborate on individualized goals for the New Year.

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New Years Resolutions: A Chance for Kids to Make Goals and See Their Achievements

We frequently set goals for ourselves; parents set their sights on goals for their children and therapists identify skill areas to build upon girl setting goals for the children they work with. There is a reason why we make a new years resolution with each year that passes- it is motivating to set your sights on something new. Goal setting can be fun; encourage kids to join in!
Make goals less of an obligation and more of a motivation by encouraging children to speak for themselves. You will be surprised with what they come up with. As children are not usually asked to set goals themselves (and in fact it is quite an abstract question at that), below is a framework for discussing goal-setting with children.

How To Goal Set With Children:

  • Present goal setting as a form of “wish list” for children. These wishes can be as big as they would like them to be, such as what a child wants to be when they grow up, getting a pet that they have been desperately asking for or earning more of an allowance each week. This makes a goal tangible and relevant to every child.
  • Get more specific by organizing these wishes into certain areas of life. Examples are listed below:
    • Personal- practice piano 30 minutes per day.
    • Social- limit phone calls to 30 minutes on school nights.
    • Family- plan a family activity at least every two weeks.
    • Academic- clean out my backpack before bed every night.
    • Physical – learn to pass the ball to teammates during soccer practice.
  • Set short-term goals that are to be attained before reaching larger, more long-term goals. Short-term goals should be a part of an action plan (a specific description of what a child must do to get to the ultimate goal).
    • For example, before a pet joins the family, a child must show responsibility by independently making their bed and sorting their laundry.
    • Make these goals measurable so that a child knows “when” and “how” this goal is achieved.
    • Mark progress! If a child remembered to do laundry 3 days out of the 5 days, this is a HUGE improvement from before the child started doing laundry- celebrate it.
      • Think of how exciting that trip to the scale was when you’ve lost your first few pounds- it keeps you going. Help your child keep going by celebrating baby steps.
      • Charts, stickers, announcements via white-board or at the dinner table serve to encourage children and keep them on track.

Including a child in setting their own goals can lead to greater outcomes through increased motivation and personal investment in each goal. It empowers kids and changes the conversation from “you have to do” to “what do you want to do? How can you make it happen?” Keep in mind that goals can be individual or family-wide. Take advantage of this New Year to start healthy and fun habits at home by setting goals that require the whole family to work together.

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5 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

While discussing the topic of New Year’s Resolutions, health-related resolutions must be the most popular. With this in mind, hownew years resolution many of these resolutions are actually kept through the year’s end?   This is a list of healthy resolutions that involve small changes and have a significant impact on health.  These resolutions are achievable if you are able to make them a priority. One or more of these habits can become your new lifestyle in 2013.

5 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Eat vegetables at least twice a day. We are aiming to be realistic. Many individuals do not get veggies at least once per day. Eat one of these fresh veggies as opposed to cooked or canned. If you are already eating vegetables twice a day, increase it to three times per day. For the kids, the goal is to offer vegetables at least twice a day and model the good habit. Here are some ideas to incorporate more vegetables into your diet:
    1. Roasted vegetables. Chop a variety of colors, such as red or green peppers, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, etc. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt and any of your favorite spices. Put in the oven at 375 until softened and slightly browned. Great for dinner or leftover for lunch.
    2. Have plenty of prepared vegetables available for quick snacks or lunches. This can be sliced carrots, pre-washed salad greens, sliced or diced broccoli and cauliflower, snow peas, sugar snap peas or roasted vegetables leftover from dinner.
    3. Spinach or other baby greens blended in smoothies.
    4. Stir fry a variety of chopped veggies with meat, shrimp or tofu and your favorite sauce.
  2. Switch to whole grain. Once you make the switch from white to whole grain, your body will thank you. When you are used to eating whole grain products, your taste preference will adjust and the difference will not be as noticeable. Whole grain contains the fiber and nutrients that have been stripped from “white” grain products. The fiber slows the glycemic load of the carbohydrates that are digested into the blood stream so that your blood sugar does not spike and then drop as drastically after meals. Fiber also keeps things moving along in the gut as well as indirectly lowers cholesterol.
  3. Eat out once per week or less. This probably means you will need to revamp your grocery shopping routine so you always have food for meals in the house. It also means you will need to do some time management and planning so that you are able to prepare meals each week. In addition, you may need to get new recipes that will fit into this lifestyle change. Although cooking may seem more time-consuming, eating from home is one of the healthiest habits you can have. Eating out most often means consuming calories, more sodium, more additives and spending more money.
  4. Eat three meals per day, including breakfast. Eating breakfast gives your body and brain fuel to get through the day. In addition, individuals that do not eat breakfast each day tend to overeat later in the day. Aim to include whole grains, fruit and protein at each breakfast.
  5. Schedule an appointment to see a registered dietitian. All of the above ideas are great recommendations for anyone but by meeting with a dietitian, you will receive a personal assessment of your current health status. You will also receive a nutrition plan that is created just for you and your family in order to improve health and quality of life. Our dietitians can provide meal planning, recipes, grocery store meetings and in-home cooking demonstrations. They can also recommend dietary changes to improve gastrointestinal problems, food sensitivity issues, weight issues and more.

To schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian, click here.

 

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