Eliz Greene
Eliz Greene
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Help! The kids are at home and I’m losing my mind.  I can’t get anything done and they are constantly asking me for food and to watch TV.

I’m afraid we’re all turning into couch potatoes.

What is a mom to do?

Sound familiar?

Full Disclosure: It has taken me two weeks to write this article.
Not because I was doing research … well, maybe I was!

Summer is here and my 8-year-old daughters are out of school. The past two weeks have been filled with swim team and swim lessons, dance recital, sailing (yea!) and not much productivity from me. It is easy to get discouraged by my inability to carve out time to write and work, and lose sight of what is important — the summer with my girls.

Today may feel out of control, but summer lasts more than a day. Ask yourself what is truly important. This week I made the decision to cheer on my girls at their swim meet rather staying at home and working. Yes, I could have been productive, but I would have missed seeing the smiles or holding them close when it got cold. There are only a few swim meets each year and soon they won’t want me to yell “kick, kick, KICK!” while they swim. Of course, this means I have to make up the time somewhere. Getting up earlier is a small price to pay for those smiles. The girls also understand they’ll have to entertain themselves one afternoon this week so I can work.

So, how do you find balance between work and fun, your needs and the kids’ needs? How can you make sure your kids are entertained and healthy, you get something done, and stay sane?

It is a daily struggle, but worth the effort.

Here are some tips I’ve found helpful:

Have Reasonable Expectations and Reevaluate Regularly:
In May the summer looks so long, but once it starts — it goes by so quickly. It is easy to get caught up in the plans and rush around to activities without really enjoying the time. The kids are off of school, but your responsibilities and commitments haven’t disappeared. Think about what is truly important each week and be reasonable about what you can actually get done. Some times less is so much more.

Healthy Kids Tips:

  • Be honest with the kids. If you are stressed and frustrated because you don’t have the time to get things done — tell them. Ask for their help in doing small jobs or entertaining themselves (and their siblings) so that you can work.
  • Make the kids part of your team. Yard work, cleaning, laundry and dishes can all be shared.
  • Ask how the kids are feeling. Are the overwhelmed with activities. Would they like a day to relax at the beach? Would they rather go to camp for another week? Is it time for a play date?

Saner Mom Tips:

  • Schedule some “Me Time.” It’s not selfish to have some time to yourself, it is essential. Kids at home 24/7 can be exhausting. A cup of coffee with a friend, a pedicure, even a nap can help you cope in a more positive manner.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. Celebrate what you are able to accomplish rather than dwelling on what you aren’t.
  • Take a few moments at the beginning of the week to think about what lies ahead and when you can fit it what you need (don’t forget about “ME Time”) and picture the week going well. At the end of the week reflect about what worked and what didn’t.
  • Make some sort of record of the summer. A journal, video, or picture album is a great family activity and a wonderful way to stay focused on the good parts of summer.

Find some sort of routine:
Sure, it’s all fine during the school year, but when the final bell rings it seems our routine and healthy habits get packed away along with the spiral notebooks. The lack of routine wreaks havoc with your kid’s health and your sanity. A recent study indicates children in school maintain healthier habits than when they are home for the summer. What is a mom to do? Here are some tips to keep your kids moving, away from the chip bag, and out of your hair!

Keep a Bed Time:

Healthy Kid Tips:

  • Kids 7 – 12 years old need at least ten hours of sleep. You need at least 6 (7 or 8 is better). Tired kids make for unpleasant days. (Find out how much sleep your child needs)
  • Regular bed time and wake times will help the body function normally. Disrupting the schedule causes changes in metabolism.
  • Ease into bed time with a quiet activity such as reading. Avoid watching television before bed.

Saner Mom Tips

  • Let’s face it, during the summer, sometimes the only time you get to yourself is after the kids go to sleep. Protect your “me time!” When your kids come down saying “I can’t sleep” it is okay to say, “This is Mommy (and Daddy) time. You need to go to bed.” Be firm.
  • Keep a steady waking and sleeping schedule yourself. The saying goes “If Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.” If Mama doesn’t get sleep … well, nothing works as well as it should!

Stop the Grazing: During the school year, most kids come home hungry and ready for a snack, because they are only allowed to eat at lunch and snack time. At home, however, food is readily available all day long, and, if your kids are like mine, they’ll eat all day long too. Don’t let them graze. Instead limit eating to three meals and two snacks.

Healthy Kid Tips

  • Keep a regular meal schedule as much as possible.
  • Eat in “meal areas” such as at the table or on the patio — not in front of the television.
  • At snack time, dole out a portion — don’t hand over the bag.
  • Remember, snacks should be healthy choices, pretzels, veggies, fruit and dip for example. Popsicles, cookies, chips and other less healthy choices are treats and should be limited to once per day or a couple of times per week. (Read about snacks vs treats)
  • The best way to make sure your family eats healthy is to keep the junk out of the house. The chips in the cupboard just call to your children, “Come eat me!”

Saner Mom Tips

  • Don’t set yourself up as the “Food Police.” Set the rules and don’t negotiate.
  • Make the kids part of the process. Let them help plan meals and snacks. Set a good example by sticking to the rules yourself.
  • When the snacks come home from the store, have your kids divide them into single servings. (in sandwich bags for example).
  • Use a “snack box” for each kid with a supply for the week. If they eat all the snacks in a few days, they’ll have to wait until the next week to resupply. This is a great way to learn about portions and works great for moms too!
  • Make a list of what is available for snack — so you don’t have to answer, “What can I eat?” constantly.

Choose activities wisely:
Your kids need to be physically active every day (so do you), but it is easy to get over scheduled with activities. Create a balance between active, quite and free time.

Healthy Kid Tips:

  • Get the kids up and moving for at least an hour every day. Swim lessons, soccer practice, riding bikes, walking the dog, even playing on the play ground all count!
  • Allow the kids some time during the day when they can choose what they do. If you can’t fit in a half hour of “free time” it may be an indication you are over scheduled.
  • Schedule some “quiet time” during the day. Reading, writing, doing art projects, or even napping helps calm the children and your nerves.
  • Limit “Screen Time” to no more than one hour on most days. Kids who spend more than an hour per day in front of the television, on the computer or playing hand held games are at increased risk of obesity and other health issues.

Saner Mom Tips:

  • Use the “quiet time” wisely to recharge your own batteries with quiet activities or to get some work done.
  • Make a list of approved “quiet time” activities so you don’t have to answer “what should I do?” constantly.
  • Use “Screen Time” as a reward. If the kids have to earn TV time by completing chores or with good behavior, they will be less likely to beg you for it. (You also won’t have to beg them to do the chores)
  • Use a movie or extra screen time as a reward, celebration, or special treat. On a raining day, have a popcorn picnic and watch an old classic together.
  • Don’t just watch the kids be active, join in. Follow the leader at the park or walk around the track during soccer practice. It feels good to move.

Have some fun:
Summer is about fun — don’t forget to have some.

Healthy Kid Tips:

  • Have some fun outdoor activities on hand. A basket with bubbles, balls, jump ropes, hula hoops and chalk can keep kids occupied for a long while. (It’s fun for grown ups too!)
  • A sprinkler is always a hit. Join in for a good laugh.
  • Be silly with food. Eat outside and be messy. All year long we’re teaching table manners — let’em eat with their hands! Better yet, put on the bathing suits and eat without hands. Ice cream is a good candidate — so is watermelon. Hose off when you’re done.
  • Busy Woman’s Guide’s favorite experts on all things fun Kim & Jason have a list of 10 Campfire Game You Have to Play Try one!

Saner Mom Tips:

  • Choose the fun! At least once per day, as a mom, there is a moment when you make the choice to “be the mom” or be fun. Choose to let your kids run in the fountain, even though they’ll have to ride home in wet clothes. It’s okay, I won’t tell!
  • Join in. It is easy to get trapped in mom-mode and sit on the sidelines. Let yourself play — jump in. You can ride home in wet clothes too. Your kids will love it and so will you!

Enjoy this time, it is the only 2009 summer you will ever have.

Do you have a tip for healthy kids or sane moms? Please make a comment!

Get more valuable information in Eliz’s new book, The Busy Woman’s Guide to a Healthy Heart, or in her Award Winning Blog.

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Eliz Greene survived a massive heart attack while seven-months pregnant with twins, struggled to lose the 80 pounds gained during her pregnancy, and searched for a way to hold on to the perspective and passion she found in her near-death experience. Drawing on her background as an adaptive movement specialist, Eliz developed simple strategies and tips to help other busy women be more active, eat better and manage your stress.

As the Director of the Embrace Your Heart Wellness Initiative, Eliz travels the country energizing and inspiring audiences in keynotes and workshops on women’s heart health. She writes one of the top 100 health and wellness blogs. Find more at www.EmbraceYourHeart.com.

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Eliz Greene

About Eliz Greene

Eliz Greene survived a heart attack at age 35 while seven months pregnant with twins. Her down-to-earth strategies to manage stress and improve heart health and reduce stress are used by thousands of busy people all over the world. She is a motivational wellness speaker, author, and job stress researcher. Visit elizgreene.com to book Eliz for your next event.

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