3. An exercise plan
It's not just kids who are under stress; the bad economy has school systems slashing budgets and, as a result, school sports programs. While some school systems are asking parents to pony up the difference, at an average cost of $93 per sport per season, a survey from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health showed that about 12 percent of parents are just pulling kids out of sports to save money. Organized sports are a good way to make sure your kids get a consistent level of exercise, but studies show that parents who exercise have children who exercise. Take your children out for walks, hikes, and bike rides, advises Jeffrey Rossman, PhD, Rodale.com advisor and director of life management at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts. And get them involved in household chores, especially the more physically active ones like yard work and gardening.
The payoff: Smarter kids. Dartmouth University researchers studied the effects of exercise on the brains of teenagers and younger children and, not surprisingly, found that kids who exercise regularly have lower stress levels. But they also had better memories and were better able to learn and retain information than kids who exercised sporadically. They also noted that children suffering from ADHD responded to non-drug behavior-modification programs after being on regular exercise programs better than more sedentary children did.