By Ruchi Kaushik, MD, MPH, FAAP
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine
Medical Director, ComP-CaN (Comprehensive Peds for Complex Needs)
Medical Director, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Blog
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio
Welcome 2019! The beginning of a new year reminds us to celebrate achievements of the past and reset goals for the future. Whether it be weight loss, quitting tobacco use, or saving money, while you narrow down your list of objectives, consider making a few New Year’s Parenting Resolutions that will help build stronger relationships with your children.
Limit screen time
If you want more time with your kids, everyone in the house will need to spend less time on their screens. It seems that children, from toddlers to teens, are on their phones or tablets all the time, so what is a parent to do? Set rules.
- Place a bin near chargers and ask everyone (including yourself) to drop devices by a specific time that works for your home – such as after school, before dinner, 7 p.m., etc.
- Do not allow screens at the dinner table.
- For younger children, implement a rule of co-viewing and watch all content with your child. This allows you to limit time (because what parent has time to sit around and watch YouTube videos all day?), ensure that content is truly educational, and point out actions you do and do not agree with (“Was that nice of him to take her kitty? No, it was not. I’m so glad he returned it and apologized.”)
- Remember the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children two years and older spend two hours or less per day on screens.
Almost half of Americans say they would like to lose weight in the new year. If you, too, made such a resolution in the past and have found it to be challenging, consider doing it as a family. Of course, we would all like to be healthy, but, more than anything, parents want a better life for their child. Creating a habit of exercise for them now will last into adulthood and prevent many health problems that you may be experiencing. Exercise is linked to improved mental health. The key to staying on track is choosing an activity that works for your family. Join the YMCA and take classes together. Start training in a martial art as a family. Run or bike on the weekends. Race up and down the stairs in your home (being careful not to fall!). Or turn up the music and have a dance party in your living room. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be active for at least 60 minutes per day.
Role model self control
Our world is quickly and constantly changing, and we are facing a host of #FirstWorldProblems: we can respond to a post on social media, order a pizza, download a video game, and shop for shoes all in a span of 10 minutes and a few clicks. But are we taking a moment to discuss the difference between “wants” and “needs” with our children? Whether your resolution is to save money, lose weight, stop yelling at your children, or spend less time on Instagram, you are making an effort to exercise self control. You are your child’s best teacher and when you take a few moments to breathe before reacting, they are watching and learning from you.
Learn something new
Have you always wanted to learn to play an instrument or speak a new language? Why not take it up together? Learning something new with your child holds you accountable (it is really hard to say you don’t feel like practicing to your 10-year-old when she pulls out her guitar), demonstrates to your child that it is never too late, and teaches your child that failure is part of success. Your first crochet project may look like a preschooler’s and your child needs to see that success is a series of steps that takes hard work and, often, many mistakes.
In our desire to give our children the childhood we feel we never had, we are often passing up life lessons our parents instilled. We forget that empathy, compassion, generosity, and kindness must be taught. This year choose a charitable organization and serve. Volunteer at the Food Bank. Make baskets for the Salvation Army. Collect children’s books for Goodwill. Or just hand out free lemonade in your neighborhood. There are so many opportunities to give that your children can only see when you show them.
Cherish every moment
Yes, it is cliché, but they grow up so fast! So live in every present moment. Their every antic does not need to be recorded or posted. Put your phone down, watch the craziness, and create a memory in your mind. Better yet, join the craziness, and you will never forget what it felt like to swing them, floss with them, or build (and destroy!) trains with them.
But give yourself a break
We all want to be the perfect parent. If you could see yourself through your child’s eyes, you would realize they already think we are. So give yourself a break. You are doing the best you can to create a memorable childhood for them. Some days you will feel like you rocked it and others you will wish you could forget. But it is all part of your family’s story. So, give yourself a pat on your back and have a prosperous, safe, and healthy new year!
To locate a doctor for your child, visit www.chofsa.org/find-a-doctor.