When you become a parent, your child’s health becomes one of the most important priorities in your life. It’s easy to obsess over whether your toddler is eating enough veggies or your school child gets enough sleep. But your health matters, too. When you live a healthy lifestyle, you’re setting a good example for your kids, and you can help your kids be more healthy also. Here are 9 things you need to know about keeping yourself healthy — for yourself and your kids.
1. You need a bedtime, too. When you finally get all the kids in bed and settled, you might be tempted to take advantage of the first quiet time of the day to get something done. But before you start cleaning the kitchen or working on that project you’ve been putting off, make sure it’s not past your bedtime. Getting enough sleep is key to staying healthy, and a regular bedtime helps you fall asleep more easily. What’s more, when your bedtime is unpredictable, that can affect your kids’ sleep as well. So set yourself a bedtime at least 8 hours before your alarm will ring, and send yourself to bed just like you do your kids.
2. Depression doesn’t always feel like sadness — and it can affect either parent. You might think that if you made it past the first few months of your baby’s life, then you’re past the risk of postpartum depression. But postpartum depression can strike any time during the first year of your baby’s life. It can be hard to recognize, because it doesn’t always feel like depression: anxiety, anger, and resentment can all be symptoms. And PPD doesn’t only impact moms — dads are also more likely to suffer from depression during the first few months after baby arrives. Raising young kids is stressful, so if you or your partner are struggling with negative emotions, get help.
3. The way you’re eating sets an example. You probably already know that modeling a healthy diet is one of the best ways to encourage your children to eat well. But you may not know that sitting down and eating with your kids has a positive impact on both their health and yours. At least a few times a week, avoid the temptation to cram food in your mouth while you’re loading the dishwasher. Instead, sit down with your whole family and enjoy a meal together.
4. Exercise can pull your family together. Most parents think of exercise as something they do for themselves. It’s great if you can make the time to exercise solo, but when life gets busy, the things you do just for you are usually the first to go. That’s why it’s a good idea to make exercise a routine for your whole family. Even a simple activity like a brisk walk after dinner can give everyone a chance to stretch their legs without needing to schedule childcare.
5. You need friends just as much as your kids do. Play dates aren’t just for your kids. When you have strong friendships and a good support system, you’re better able to cope with the stress of parenting. What’s more, when you have good friends, that can help your kids have better friendships, too.
6. Stress is normal, but you shouldn’t make it a lifestyle. There’s no question that parenting is stressful. But many parents seem to think that being too busy deserves a badge of honor. Keeping busy all the time might make you feel important, but when you make time to relax, that helps your kids feel less stressed. So do what you can to cut back on your hectic schedule and spend time just hanging out with your family — even if you have to schedule it.
7. You could have a chronic health condition and not know it. For most parents, the years when your kids are young are also the years you’re most at risk of getting a chronic health conditions. Problems such as type 2 diabetes and autoimmune disorders often surface in your 30s and 40s. But because the symptoms are often mild or even non-existent at first, it’s easy for you to ignore until it gets more serious. Early detection is key to maintaining your quality of life and health, so pay attention to minor symptoms such as hard-to-shake exhaustion. If you’re experiencing unfamiliar symptoms with no clear cause, talk to your doctor.
8. Date nights away from your kids are good for your kids. When your kids are little, it can be hard to leave them with a babysitter, even for a few hours. But getting away from your kids isn’t just good for you and your partner — it’s good for your kids, too. Kids whose parents have a good relationship are likely to be happier, less anxious, and less stressed, so getting away from the kids with your partner will benefit your whole family.
9. Your choices now affect your long-term health. You might feel like you’re too young to be thinking about health problems such as osteoporosis or heart disease, but the truth is that your choices now will affect your health later. Simple steps such as eating healthy and maintaining your weight now could make a big difference in your quality of life in the future. So make the commitment to take care of your own health now — not just for yourself, but for your kids and even your grandchildren.
*This post is sponsored by American Family Insurance.