By instilling healthy habits, routines will now continue into adulthood

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Dr. Betty Cheney Kelly

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With the start of the new year, we usually think about making resolutions and forming new habits.

This can be difficult in the colder winter months. Spring is a great time to develop healthy habits as the weather improves and daylight hours increase.

When considering creating a new habit or routine, remember to make it SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

For example, a goal to “be more active” is difficult to measure success or achievement.

Instead, a SMART goal might be “movement/exercise for 10 minutes a day, 4 days a week for the next month.”

Visual tracking can be helpful in monitoring progress. There are many apps available for this purpose or a flipchart to track progress along the way.

At the end of the set period, you can look back and track progress before adjusting the goal for the next month.

Three previous columns from Pediatrics to Brevard:

Health tips:Do you want your child to grow up healthy? So follow these nutritional tips

To pay particular attention to:Know the Signs of an Abusive Relationship When Your Teenager Starts Dating

Down syndrome:Children with Down syndrome have a difficult path but can live a good life

Dr. Betty Cheney Kelly is a pediatrician and pediatrician at Brevard.

External rewards can be a useful motivator to develop these skills.

For example, stickers or goal charts can help reinforce consistency with a new habit or routine.

For some tasks, a sticker may be an appropriate reward.

In some cases, earning a certain number of stickers may result in a specific reward.

For example, five days spent putting clothes in the laundry basket earns you a coloring book.

Movement and play are great ways to encourage activity for children (and caregivers).

On rainy days, a dance party in the living room can get everyone moving.

Luckily, in Florida we also have plenty of great weather for outdoor play.

Family walks or bike rides to explore our wildlife and regional parks can also get everyone in the family moving.

By making movement and physical activity fun and enjoyable, we can create positive associations that will help carry physical activity into adulthood.

Mealtimes are an opportunity to develop healthy lifestyle habits.

When possible, sitting together as a family without a screen can bring everyone together with more intention and focus on the meal in front of them.

When thinking about mealtimes, constructing our plates with a variety of colors can be helpful where possible.

Involving children in meal preparation can help encourage more adventurous eating, although it may take many exposures before trying a new food.

It may help to offer a safe or known food alongside a small portion of the new food.

Many caregivers would like to see improved sleep and bedtime for our families.

A bedtime routine can be a great place to build structure, so everyone involved knows what to expect.

Some structure is useful for all of us, including children.

An example is the practice of B before bedtime: bath, toothbrush, books, bed.

It can start in early childhood, with caregivers playing the role of reader.

As children get older, they can begin to practice reading as part of the bedtime routine.

Waking up and getting ready for school and work in the morning can be a hectic challenge for many families.

Visual cues are a great way to help you prepare for the day.

For younger children, a checklist with pictures can guide the process with fewer verbal reminders from caregivers.

As they grow, the checklist can be a place to practice reading skills.

Teens and adults can benefit from a checklist each morning to avoid forgetting chores or tasks along the way.

When building routines and habits, it helps to gather all the materials needed for the task in one area.

For example, store socks next to shoes in the hallway to avoid rushing to find socks in the morning.

After finishing the homework, it could be put in the backpack. This avoids the scramble to find things in the morning.

Finally, establishing healthy habits doesn’t have to be a big undertaking or a complete overhaul of our daily routines.

Starting with a few small changes, in a lasting way, can lead to lasting change instead of a quick fix mentality that is often forgotten after days to weeks.

Dr. Betty Cheney Kelly attended medical school at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, Dayton, Ohio. She moved to Orlando to complete her pediatrics residency at Arnold Palmer Medical Center and joined pediatrics at Brevard in 2019.

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