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Tips for a Healthy Holiday Routine for Children

healthy happy kidsThe holiday break is finally here, giving our students time off from school to enjoy being home with family and friends. While breaks are intended to be a time for rest, they are also often a time of get-togethers that extend past bedtime, long car rides to visit relatives, and second (maybe third) helpings of holiday treats. As we interrupt our normal school and work schedules for a few weeks, it is important to pay attention to healthy routines for our bodies and our minds.

Hang Up and Hang Out!

Have you ever ignored your real-life family and friends in favor of phones or devices? Let’s face itwe’ve all been there. And without parental limits over break, our children and adolescents may be tempted to settle into hours of video games, TV, and social media. Take some time to work with your children to create a plan regarding screen time. Encourage everyone to put down those devices during family mealtimes and spend time telling stories or catching up on the day. The American Academy of Pediatrics has an interactive tool that can help you set appropriate expectations for electronics and media-based devices.

Practice Mindfulness

Holidays can be stressful. Bring a sense of calm to your life with mindfulness, something you can practice with the whole family. Paying attention to the here and now can help us savor each moment of the season. Try taking in the joys of nature by going on a hike or a walk. Studies show that exercise like this boosts happiness, increases energy levels, helps us manage stress, and allows us to sleep more soundly. We can also practice mindful eating by purposely focusing our attention on what we put into our bodies. Don’t make mindless choices in the buffet line; rather, be intentional about putting mostly real food (not the sugary/processed stuff) on your plate. If Grandma’s pound cake is a favorite holiday tradition, go ahead and have a slice! Just watch your portion size and savor each bite.

Make Sleep Your Priority

Winter weather often brings us indoors where we share not only good times, but contagious germs. A night of restful sleep helps keep our immune systems strong and better able to fight viruses. Adequate sleep also boosts mood and promotes optimal brain functioning. Try to keep bedtimes as consistent as possible, even amid the excitement of the holidays. Since kids won’t have to wake up early for school every day, let them catch up on missed sleep; this will help reset their bodies’ internal clocks for a more restful routine. Studies indicate that 910 hours of sleep per night is ideal for teenagers, while up to 12 hours is recommended for younger children. For more information, see "Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need?

As we head off into the holiday break and look ahead, give yourself a chance to reflect on all that came with this past year. Acknowledge what went well and make goals to continue those practices. At the same time, avoid placing too much judgment on yourself for things that did not go as well as you would have hoped. Most of all, enjoy your time with friends and family and cherish these moments with your children!

Sarah Satinsky is the UpperSschool counselor at Sanford School. To learn more about our counseling program, go to Sanford School's School Counseling page.

Suzanne Humphreys and Kelley Seravalli are former counselors at Sanford.

See Also:  Sleep Routine — One of the Best Gifts For Your Child This Holiday

Topics: Health & Wellness, Parenting Tips, Elementary Education