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February 2020

Real-World Tips on Being a Healthy Parent

When you’re a parent, focusing on a healthy lifestyle doesn’t just benefit your own well-being. It also helps you take better care of family members and be a good role model for your child.

Dad and toddler washing hands

But let’s get real. Prioritizing health isn’t always easy for tired, time-crunched moms and dads. The practical strategies below can help you deal with some common parenting problems.

The challenge: Your baby isn’t sleeping through the night, and you’re exhausted.

More than two-thirds of new parents get less sleep than they need, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If you’re home with your baby, grab 40 winks whenever your infant sleeps. Even a short nap can improve your mood and alertness. If you’re a breastfeeding mom, ask your partner to handle some of the night feedings. Pump and refrigerate extra breastmilk to have on hand.

The challenge: Your child brings home colds from school, and everyone gets sick.

Grown-ups average 2 to 3 colds per year, but kids have even more. To reduce the spread of colds, make sure everyone in your family washes their hands frequently. Scrub well for 20 seconds with soap and water. If that’s not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead. Also, teach your children to cough and sneeze into a tissue or their upper shirt sleeves.

The challenge: Between work and family activities, you never make it to the gym.

Squeeze more movement into your everyday life. Even short bursts of activity, such as climbing a few flights of stairs, can count toward meeting your activity needs. Also, find ways to get moving as a family. For example, you might do active chores together, such as raking leaves. Or you might plan fun family activities, such as bicycling to the park or playing catch.

The challenge: You know healthy eating is important, but fast food is—well, fast.

Become an efficiency expert in the kitchen so meals are quicker and easier to prepare. Create a weekly menu and list the ingredients you’ll need. Then shop for them all at once to avoid repeated trips to the supermarket. Cook extra so you have leftovers you can use for another meal. For example, Monday’s leftover turkey chili could be Tuesday’s baked potato topper.

The challenge: You’re so busy taking care of everyone else that you feel stressed out.

Give yourself a break. Listen to an uplifting podcast, take a warm bath, or chat with a friend. Protecting your own well-being is one of the best things you can do for your family. 

Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2019
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