By: Grace Derocha, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Despite their best effort to prepare for the back-to-school season, more than 50 percent of parents admit it doesn’t go as planned. Thankfully, small changes in daily routines can make great time-savers and allow the family to practice healthy habits without the hassle.
- Empower Kids to Help: With an incentivized system or chore list, delegating duties to the kids can take some of the pressure off busy parents throughout the school year. According to the Center for Parenting Education, children who are given chores have higher self-esteem, more responsible and better problem-solvers. Start by establishing routines that empower them to take care of everyday tasks independently. Whether it’s getting ready for school, starting their homework or getting ready for bed, setting realistic expectations for a child to take on simple responsibilities can make the day run smoother.
- Get Organized at Home: Coordinating schedules within a household can be challenging. To make sure everyone is on the same page, create a tangible family calendar for school events, extracurricular activities and even family time. Researchers have found those who write things down are not only more organized, but more likely to remember the task or event. To keep track of paperwork, label separate folders for everyone in the family to treat as a “mailbox” and leave school signature slips, bills or even friendly notes throughout the day. Families can also establish clean-up time or create bins that sit outside bedrooms where toys, clothes and other items can be dropped off to be put away.
- Find Creative Ways to Get Active: Less than five percent of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Though it may seem difficult, fitting in a family workout is possible with a little creativity. While the kids are at play or practice, parents can take advantage of jungle gyms, park benches or bleachers for a quick set of squats, pull-ups, step-ups or tricep dips. Believe it or not, even 10 minutes of walking during a football game or swim meet helps get in some steps and can provide the same energy as a cup of coffee. Chores can also serve as opportunities to get the blood flowing, from gardening together to taking the dog for a walk. On rainy afternoons, get everyone moving with an after-school dance party or bedtime yoga.
- Make Mealtime Easier: Cutting down on meal preparation is a great way to save time that would otherwise be spent packing lunches or getting dinner ready. Busy parents can batch cook meats, pastas, casseroles or bakes and store in the freezer to re-heat throughout the week. When making soup, stew or sauce, families can prepare extra to preserve in portion-friendly ice tray servings. Slow cookers and pressure cookers are also a convenient way to prepare home-cooked meals. Another way to pull together school lunches is to take advantage of healthy no-cook recipes the kids can make, such as rainbow veggie pizza or apple, turkey cheese pockets.
- Routinely Relax: A recent report showed working parents feel stressed, tired or rushed when it comes to having time for their families, friends and hobbies. To combat this during the school year, set aside time for everyone in the family to wind down and do things they enjoy. While some may prefer reading a book, others may opt for dinner with friends or bedtime yoga. As a family, get creative and dedicate days of the week to different things – game nights, craft nights, etc. Regardless of the activity, downtime is crucial for mental and emotional well-being.
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Grace Derocha is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips, visit AHealthierMichigan.org.