It’s the start of a brand new year and many of us will be evaluating our physical and mental health, goals and habits to see where we can make improvements. New Year’s resolutions always start off hopeful, but for many of us, fade away as day to day activities send us back on the treadmill of life.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way and when you share resolutions with someone else, there’s always that personal reminder that goals were set for a reason.
That’s why making resolutions, not as individuals, but as a family can keep hope alive. Begin by making family resolutions a tradition that starts at the beginning of the year and has checks and balances throughout the year. At the end of the year, see how everyone did and what could be done to make the next year even better.
Resolution: a decision to do or not do something. That’s about the clearest definition I’ve seen. Decisions are important – one decision may not always be the complete journey, but it’s a beginning. Without beginnings, nothing changes.
The best way to teach your children the importance of New Year’s resolutions is by making it a family tradition.
Dr. Benjamin Siegel, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, suggests saying, “Each one of us is going to state a few things that we want to continue to do and things we’d like to change that would make us feel better about ourselves and how our family works.”
Each family member gets a chance to share something they are proud of and something they would like to change. Depending on the age of your children, it may help if one or both parents go first. If your child is old enough to write, have he or she write down their accomplishments and goals. If they cannot write yet, you can write for them. Copy down exactly what they are saying without trying to “improve” the grammar or goal.
Ideas for families can include group activities as well as individual undertakings. Resolutions for the entire family might include taking a monthly hike, playing board games twice a month or committing to more volunteering activities. Try to limit the number so they are more doable and more meaningful. “A list of 100 things is impossible,” Siegel says. “It should be based on things that are doable without economic hardship.”
Post your list in a place where the family will see it on an ongoing basis such as on the refrigerator or a bulletin board in the kitchen. Dr. Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, suggests making a resolution box, in which each family member can drop in his or her resolutions, and then pull them out at a later date to review them.
What your child needs to work on depends on your child. If you are concerned about his diet, then encourage healthier eating habits for him as well as the whole family. If your daughter’s room is a mess, try to help her commit 10 minutes a day to cleaning it. As your child ages, he can be more active in coming up with goals, which will mean more to him when he achieves them.
For preschool-aged children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends resolutions that focus on cleaning up toys, brushing teeth and washing hands and being kind to pets. However, parents who consider these behaviors part of their regular expectations may want to provide resolutions that focus on higher goals.
Older children can begin to understand the relationship between a resolution and an improved outcome. Younger kids may view the whole exercise as a game. It doesn’t matter; whatever helps each family member accomplish his or her goal is the more important issue.
When your child gets into adolescence, the AAP recommendations focus more on the child taking more responsibility for his actions, including taking care of his body, dealing with stress in a healthy way, talking through conflict, resisting drugs and alcohol and helping others through community service.
Parents are the role models in this dynamic. Just as with everything else you do, your child is watching. “Parents should be reflective about how they wish to be in the coming year,” Siegel says. “It’s a good opportunity to promote good mental and physical health.”
Just like adults, kids know the thrill of accomplishing something, especially when their parents acknowledge them. As you go over the family list of resolutions each month or quarter, take time to acknowledge the successes, along with reinforcing the resolutions that need more attention. “Children will benefit by having the parent praise them, which will improve their self-esteem,” Siegel says. “This will help them with self-regulatory behaviors that they can integrate into being a healthy adult.”
Review time is not punish time for unmet resolutions. That may seem obvious, but emotions can get the best of us when things don’t go the way we planned. It’s important to be flexible but also understanding. The resolution is a guide for betterment, not written in stone. Understanding, compassion and dealing with issues head-on can help keep everyone on track. Learning to take responsibility for our decisions, being able to change our mind and find a better solution and discussing new options, all help in making resolutions a reality.
However your family arrives at resolutions, the best part is that you’re doing it together and learning how to manage your role not only in the family but also in the larger world.
Story source: Laura Lewis Brown, http://www.pbs.org/parents/holidays/making-new-years-resolutions-child/