Rather than tell families what to avoid or quit altogether, here are five things your family should do more of for the New Year.

1.  Have more family dinners
In addition to serving better food than you would have eaten at a restaurant, family dinner provides healthy behavioural nutrition. It starts kids on a path to healthier eating in general, sure, but dinner is also the best time for kids to learn positive social skills. At the table, and especially during holidays when there are extended and perhaps quirky family members about, kids can learn how conversations can go from friendly and respectful to overbearing and possibly drunken. Best of all, they can learn how to negotiate and modify their own behaviour and the behaviour of others. So, take Dr. Pat’s advice and learn to “pass the salt”. As awkward as dinner conversation can be, the skills kids learn at the table last: studies show that the more families have dinners together, the less the children will get involved with risky and criminal behaviour.
Involving your children in the preparation of family dinners is also an opportunity not to be missed. Remember, parenting is the domestication of children so that they become productive and happy adults.  When you teach your children how to cook, they may then continue to enjoy all the benefits of the family meal and pass on the tradition to their own children.
Helping prepare the meal also increases food choice options in children who are picky eaters. 
2. More handwashing
Public health has saved more lives than all the prescribed medicines, antibiotics, and performed surgeries combined. Personal hygiene is everyone’s part of public health and handwashing is a huge part of your personal hygiene. It’s also very simple to do. 
Why is handwashing so effective? Your hands are the main interface between a germ-filled world and the inside of your body. Your hands touch public surfaces, and your nose, mouth, and eyes. Just try counting how many times a day you do this. Whatever the number, your child does it more. Washing your hands is an easy and effective way to disrupt the spread of germs like C. difficile and respiratory viruses, and the flu.  This winter, and in fact all year, you are better off not getting these and many other infections. 
If you find yourself or your child handwashing too much however, it could be a sign of a whole other kind of problem.  
3. Walk to school (and other places) more often
It’s a cliché at this point: people swear they will get on some giant exercise kick for the New Year only to find themselves back in front of the TV in couch potato mode by late January – or earlier. Instead, why not just commit to getting more active in your regular routine. You will be doing yourself, and as principal role model your kids, a big favour. There are lots of ways you and your family can get more active without so much as a gym membership. 
First thing is transportation. Your kids are already going from A to B. Instead of driving them, get them to walk.  Sure, there are pedestrian safety issues, and don’t forget to use your ears, but when children are taught and learn, they become confident and their self-esteem increases. 
And when they get safely home, kick them out of the house! Make them drop the video game controller and send them outside to play. The modern world often disconnects us from nature. Re-establishing the link between your kids and the natural world has immense benefits beyond physical health. 
And if you are worried about the safety of your particular neighbourhood, as a parent, there are things you should be aware of and can impact. 
4. More reading
For children, especially young ones, reading is about more than reading. A lot more. An early habit of reading benefits a child in myriad ways.  And if your child is lucky enough to grow up in a household that uses more than one language, all the better. 
Infants and toddlers
If your child is too young to read, read to them. If your child is too young to understand what is being read to them, read to them anyway. As early as possible, get them familiar with the shape and feel of books and their turn-able pages, and familiar with spending relaxing time with a book.  
As your attention is divided only between your child and the book itself, reading aloud increases the parent/child bonds known as attachment. This enhances their sense of security, and lets them know that you feel they are worthwhile people to spend time with.  By 18 months, reading and telling stories stimulates more than just emotional brain development. 
As your child gets older, reading aloud helps listening skills, vocabulary, and language skills, as well as developing imagination and creativity.  All this provides an excellent base for children to build on when they begin school. Statistics show when preschoolers are read to several times a day, they do much better in kindergarten than kids who are only read to a few times a week or less.
Older children
If you’ve started a culture of reading around your house while your children were still very young, you will have an easier time keeping it going. But don’t stop at books. 
As children grow, they can play with word games, sing written lyrics, write to a relative or friend, and share day-to-day tasks such as making shopping lists or using a recipe to cook.  
The eventual goal is to have children read longer, more challenging things independently. If they are reluctant, tell them that books are ‘the best movie they ever saw in their own head’.  
5. More family communication
At first, it’s relatively easy:  baby cries and parent tries to figure out if they want to eat, sleep, or be changed. 
Jump ahead 15 or so years and it gets a little harder: if a teen is sullen and silent, do they want money? Independence? Rebellion for its own sake? Is it existential angst? Girl problems? Boy problems? Being bullied? Drug abuse? Thoughts of suicide? Or is your teen just completely happy and happy to ignore you?
Communication is not all about dealing with the negative aspects of growing up. It’s also about having a laugh, sharing hopes, and learning how to interact with the wider world. The best way to help your child along the way is to have early, open, and honest communications around the house. This means expressing your opinion and, at times, withholding your judgment. But it also means listening, something children deserve.
Like reading with your child, communicating is an essential part of attachment.
The better your communications with your child in good times, the better it will be when things are not so good and you really need to know what is going on at school, with friends, and in their heads. And, if during a difficult conversation, you stumble on your words, ah, don’t worry about it.
Thank you for all your support to www.aboutkidshealth.ca


Jennifer McCallum

Thank you so much for stopping by this page to get to know a bit more about me and why I started Parent Guide Inc. My business story started a way back in 2001... …after the birth of my first daughter, I realized that an "all-in-one" resource guide for parents was needed, and fast! I designed the New Parent Resource Guide to fill a gap in the community for busy parents like myself. The New Parent Resource Guide offers an A-Z of key contacts for parents, caregivers, service providers, and health care professionals.  Working with key businesses and organizations in the community, we have also compiled much-needed articles, tips, and charts to answer all your parenting questions. The latest addition to our family is the School Age Resource Guide to serve parents of children, 3 to 18 years!  This guide answers questions about: nutrition, bullying, curriculum, building self-esteem, and much more, as well as offering a full directory of local and national resources. The Parentguide.ca website offers an “all-in-one” spot for parents to connect, add their own blog, and find needed resources in their community.  It is a site that educates and entertains and if you can't find somthing just ASK me. I am here to serve YOU!  My hope is that you connect with our members, find comfort in their words, and share your own story. My goal is to see what I can do to help make life a bit easier for you.   You are why I do what I do! I can’t wait to get to know you!  Comment below to tell me about yourself – then start blogging so we can find out what makes you get up in the morning!  Check out my blog too and I am sure you will be surprised what gets me out of bed each day!!! Jennifer -  Mom and Publisher

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