Firstly, Happy New Year! It’s here – 2022.
The Christmas holidays are a time to enjoy ourselves and our loved ones, but it can be also be a time where our children (and us) pick up or return to some unwanted, negative habits. We might overindulge during this period on food, screen time, excessive sleep (or lack of) and may also have been less active and end up, after the initial short term boost of dopamine when the festivities are over – feeling a little worse for wear.
January can be tough because it’s dark and cold (and often wet too) and the excitement and expectation of Christmas has passed. Over Christmas our children’s bedtime routine might have gone out of the window, they’ve generally slept until they want to get up – and perhaps lounged around in pyjamas. But now they have to be up by 7 am, have breakfast, get dressed and be presentable for school again. Kids have a lot on their plates with school, homework, and activities – it can be hard to find time for focusing on re-building good, healthy habits.
On top of this many of our children will be coping with increased pressure at school due to new Covid guidelines and isolation rules. It might be a bit of a shock to the system!
Whilst we can’t predict what guidelines might be given to us by the Prime Minister, there are some things that are in our control to support our children with creating healthy habits and supporting them with the return to the routine.
Today Youth Fairy Lisa is sharing a new habit that her family are trying to implement off the back of Christmas – reducing the amount of sugar they eat.
“MY motivation for this change is high – if I reduce my sugar intake, I know that I feel better, my migraines decrease, my sleep improves, I have more energy and I also lose the extra pounds I’m carrying and reduce my chance of developing type 2 diabetes. I also have a belief that I can do this successfully, because I’ve succeeded before and seen the benefits.”
Although Lisa is raring to go her daughter is not so keen so she’s sharing some ideas she’s implementing to support the process in her household that can easily be adapted for you and your family. Whether your are wanting to improve your children’s be sleep, organisation of homework, level of activity or something else entirely we hope these tips will support you and your kids along the way.
Lisa’s Top Tips:
- Start small – don’t expect to make the change overnight. We are REDUCING SUGAR but breaking it down in to small, manageable goals rather than aiming to go cold turkey. For the first 2 weeks the goal is to choose a health breakfast and once we are doing that more consistently we’ll look at the next step.
- Accountability – buddy up, it’s always harder to change habits on your own. Can you all go to bed half an hour earlier or all put phones away at 9 pm? We’ve got a family “star” chart on our fridge – we put a star on each day where we successfully chosen a health breakfast. If we weren’t successful, we put a heart on that day – we don’t want to beat ourselves up if we don’t succeed (but we are all quite competitive and want more stars!). Because we are aiming for…
- Progression not perfection – every day we make a positive change, it is a step in the right direction (and we begin to show our brain what we want to achieve and how good we feel when we achieve it).
- Imagine the positive outcome. We’ve shared this in previous blogs, when we vividly imagine the outcome we want, our brain takes notice. Discuss with your children what the benefits are to them making the positive changes in habits they are hoping for. Ask them what achieving this will then lead on to – help them see that small changes actually stack up to much bigger changes in the long run.
- Build on your success. When you are consistently achieving lots of ‘stars’, you can then move on to the next small step you’d like to take. You ran for 10 minutes, three times a week for two weeks? Start running for 15 minutes. When we’ve had delicious healthy breakfasts for two weeks, we might remove the sweet treat from the lunchbox. When you are successful at your next goal, then you can increase it again.
Research on how long it takes to create a new habit varies, some say it takes just 21 days, others that it takes much longer than that and can be as much as twelve times this – on average research seems to agree it takes 66 days but can be as much as 254 days for a habit to really stick. The reality is that it varies from person to person and that it can also vary depending on the motivation and a number of other variable factors.
21 days might be enough to build the habit of going to bed earlier, but it might take longer to build the habit of running 5k three times a week (it takes more training – building strength and stamina to build this habit, and its harder work!).
So, whatever the new healthy habit you and your children decide to focus on it’s important to remember that healthy habits are built over time. With a little patience and effort, you can help your kids develop healthy routines that will last a lifetime and support your child’s success.