Ever since Stephen Covey published his bestselling book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in 1989, the subject of habits has been in vogue. There’s no shortage of information if you’re looking to find useful habits to adopt for yourself. That said, many of the habits out there relate to business or personal success. But if your goal is a healthy family, you might want to take a page out of the expert “habit” books and apply them to your family life.
In 1997, my quest for family health and habits were put into motion when I founded LifeWorks Wellness Center with my wife, Sue Minkoff. From its inception, we always sought out to create a healing center where people would not only get the best possible medical care but in an environment that made you feel like family, while also being passionate advocates for families looking to strengthen all facets of their household.
As such, we have amassed 11 simple but powerful habits of a healthy family over the past 2 decades:
1. Eat Together
When families sit down for a meal together, rather than eating in “shifts” or grabbing food on the go, they tend to eat healthier things. Vegetables, fruits, and whole foods are more often consumed, rather than processed and fatty foods.
In addition to the physical benefits that come with healthier meals, research shows that family time helps children get better grades and avoid smoking, alcohol, and drugs.
If your family doesn’t share many meals together now, it might not happen overnight. Perhaps start with a goal of two meals per week. Stick to that, build the frequency over time, and establish it as a habit.
2. Cook Together
Similarly, cooking meals together is beneficial for a healthy family. Not only is homemade food generally healthier, but family members who cook together are spending time together and creating memories. The kitchen is often the hub of a home, so it’s a good place to come together.
Making meals together also allows family recipes to be passed down. Children who learn to cook are developing a valuable life skill, and the work involved is shared – Mom or Dad doesn’t need to feel as though meal prep is their burden alone.
3. Plan Vacations Together
How often do you go on a vacation with your family and encounter complaining children? Something’s too boring, or you’re too busy. Involving the whole family in vacation planning might help.
Giving children a voice in family plans allows them to communicate and stand up for the things that they want to do, as well as to consider others’ input and even learn to compromise. If you’ve gotten into the habit of the parents being authoritarian in planning activities, you can certainly try to get into the habit of getting everybody involved.
4. Respect Alone Time
As great as it is to do things together as a family, it’s also inevitable that all members of a family will want some alone time — and that’s a healthy thing.
Spending time alone allows a person to reflect, unwind, problem-solve and more. Especially in this age of connectedness, when everyone seemingly has a mobile device tethered to them, it’s important to allow each other to disconnect when they feel the need. Healthy families make a habit of respecting each other’s alone time.