Americans have long turned to sports and career coaches to shape up their bodies and work life. Now, some are hiring a new breed of coach — one that helps bring order to families and home life. Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, pediatrician and author of “Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children,” sheds some light on the new breed of coaches and offers simple, smart parenting advice. Here's a Q&A:
Why do families need coaches?Modern times really invite unhealthy habits. There is so much overscheduling, kids have so many activities and people don't know where to turn.
Are parents letting kids get away with too much?Our expectations have changed but also, modern times have changed. Advances in technology mean that kids are ahead of their parents in so many ways — they’re growing up faster, experimenting more. What we really need to do is get back to basics. We need to reinforce good habits of sleeping, exercise, and time management.
Studies show that health epidemics in adults are based on habits that begin in childhood and then continue into real life. We have to get a handle on these behaviors. Obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis — these all start in childhood.But you can help by changing behaviors.
The best way to get your family in order is by doing an assessment of your child's health habits: what they are doing now and what they need to start doing to have health and happiness as they grow older. The key ingredients are sleep, safety habits, and emotional health. Address these first.
Of course, not everyone needs a coach to accomplish this. And it doesn't have to be a big, expensive production. The expense is a real downside to this and remember, these are self-prescribed experts. They are not licensed or credentialed so you have to be careful. Coaches are a good way to motivate some people, but I think it all comes down to good time management, organization and trying to fit in the basics.
Why do we let our home life get so disrupted?
You may feel like there are higher expectations of you at your job. There are other people that you need to listen to and you put your best face out there. At home you let things slip and slide because no one is watching you. But our children imitate us, our behaviors at home, so it’s very important. Parents are really huge influences on their children — kids imitate what they see.
What is the number one thing families can do for immediate benefit?The most important thing for families to do is spend time together, but quality time doesn't mean being disorganized. You can make a mess with your kids and clean it up with them too. You can have a big calendar in the kitchen and talk about time management and check off things that need to be done. Family meals are very important and a way to get everyone helping — there are different things that can be done by different ages, like older kids can mix things, younger kids can set the table etc. Involve your kids and your family in daily activities — it makes it more fun, teaches them to help, and prepares them for the future.
What are some of the challenges for working women in balancing a family with long work hours?
We all face the challenge of working long hours while still trying to be there for our kids – whether it’s helping them with homework, doing activities with them or having a family meal together. At the same time, you also need time for yourself as well.
It all comes down to how you manage your time. What people need to do for starters is ask: What should go and what should stay? What are we trying to do this for?
You need to sit down as a family and decide how you want to prioritize your life. Once you understand your family's priorities, you need to manage your time so that you are having fun but also instilling good habits in your children.
Healthy habits are important. Kids should eat good food — and not in front of the television. Also, be aware of work habits, like how your kids manage their time. That makes a big difference for how they function in the future. Kids need routines and they really like knowing what to expect.
What's the first thing a family should do to get more organized?I think that they need to sit down and think about how their day unfolds. Does their day always feel rushed? Are their children not fulfilling the healthy habits that kids need like sleep and exercise? Are they having tantrums because they are not eating well? Do they feel overwhelmed because their house in a whirlwind? Then they can figure out how to make changes together.
What people need to do is make small changes at a time. Frequently, they try to take on too much — they try to overhaul what's been happening in their house for years because that is how it happens on TV, but that is not real life.
You need to assess the different areas and pick one area before you move on to the next one. There definitely needs to be certain household rules in place. When it comes to time management, it's healthy to take a step back and drop things that you don't necessarily need to be doing. You should take a deep breath and think about what you are trying to accomplish as a family.
If you are prioritizing a family activity, you can say "Before we go out, we're going to get everything in order. We'll make dinner, help younger kids do homework, everyone will have chores and there will be control" so that while you're having fun, you're not letting things fall by the wayside.
You definitely need to make everyone take turns. There should be a rotation of chores, with different jobs on different days of the week.
What often happens when family coaches leave? They may motivate you in the short term but if you don't continue to want to make these positive changes, it doesn't stick. That is why you have to go back and figure out what matters to your family ... and that will be different for each family. And then if you add organization and time management, it will fall all into place.
For more great parenting tips, visit RealAge.com/parenting.com