This year, instead of the usual (work out more; eat less), consider what you can do to make your family healthier and happier.

Pediatrician Ari Brown, MD, says the new year is an ideal time to take a step back and evaluate where your family is going. "The art of parenting still exists," says the doctor who is the author of the Baby 411 book series. "We tend to get wrapped up in the day-to-day demands of our busy lives and sometimes lose sight of the big picture. Parenting, like any other job, requires intention and goal setting."

Dr. Brown's Healthy Family Resolutions:

  1. Get moving. Be sure your children have at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity. "That can be walking the dog, playing chase in the yard, or even dancing to your iPod music," Brown says.
  2. Limit screen time—ALL screens. "That includes TV, computers, videogames, iPads, etc. to no more than two hours a day," advises the expert. "Yes, some of these things may be educational games, etc, but you have to interact with humans at some point!"
  3. Turn off electronics during meals. "Especially cell phones which are anti social and distracting. Dinner should be a sacred time for families to spend together," says Brown who forbids texting at her table.
  4. Set a media curfew. If you have teens, you have cell phones, but Brown believes cell phones need a bedtime, too. "Avoid having your teen up all night texting by putting her phone to bed downstairs" or as an alternative, have your teen agree to shut the phone off before a certain hour.
  5. Get more sleep! Brown believes sleep is underrated. "Set a reasonable bedtime and stick to it. Sleep is vital for mental health and physical development," says the expert who is the mother of two kids, ages 12 and 15. "Children's bodies are busy growing and their minds are learning all day long. They need their rest. Putting a 6-year-old to bed at 9 o'clock is too late."
  6. Brush and floss and wash your hands. The American Dental Association says teeth should be brushed for a minimum of two minutes twice a day and flossed once a day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says hand washing is an effective way to prevent the spread of germs and disease. Teach your kids proper hand washing technique: wash hands with clean, running water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the Happy Birthday song twice.
  7. Eat less processed foods. Banish the 4 C's from the kitchen pantry: Cola, Chips, Cookies, Candy. "If it's out of the house, it will truly be a treat. If it is in the pantry, it is a staple," says Brown.
  8. Get a flu vaccine. Everyone. "You are completely rolling the dice if you have your children immunized but don't bother with a shot for yourself," says the pediatrician. "Parents are susceptible, too. Kids bring home lots of germs so there is a ton of potential exposure in your own house!"
  9. Make family dinner a least on weeknights. It helps the family reconnect at the end of the day and has a positive impact on your kids, no matter what their age.
  10. Practice what you preach and enjoy your family. Remember, you are your child's role model but that doesn't mean you can't have fun. "Children really do grow up fast," says Brown. "You'll never regret spending time with your kids.


Interview with Ari Brown, MD

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (for info on obesity and flu shots)

The American Dental Association

The National Sleep Foundation