Parents: Put the champagne away, and get out the pen and paper. It’s time to put your thinking cap on, take a deep breath, and start working on those New Year’s resolutions. It may feel overwhelming to set goals, and as a parent — busy with your kids, work, and household tasks — it can feel especially hard to keep your resolutions; still, it’s worth it to go through the exercising of making them.
No matter what the age of your kids, the new year is a truly great opportunity to reach for the sky together, teach your kids about goal setting, and help them think about self-improvement. Talk about phasing out bad habits, focus on objectives together, and most importantly — make the entire process fun.
Here are just a few tips to get you started:
1. Do It Together
Even when you don’t think your kids are paying attention, they are. Trust us. Little eyes and ears are constantly soaking in information, and gathering impressions about the world. Set a good example, and allow your kids to witness your New Year’s resolution list take shape — better yet, get them involved in creating it. Explain to them what you are doing and why, since this may be their first exposure to such a concept. Consider concentrating on high-level categories, that could easily turn into a teaching moment for your children; things like health, academics, hobby, and the special H.O.P.E. category (help one person every day).
Give your kids examples of resolutions you’ve made in the past, and what you did to keep them. Tell them what you are planning for this year, and how you expect to make it successful. See if they want to make a resolution of their own, and have them think of ideas for how they can keep it throughout the year.
2. Make It Age Appropriate
Children of every age group — other than infants — are fully capable of working on their New Year’s resolutions; some will require more help from their parent. If your kids are still quite young, you may encourage them to work on their potty training goals; to use more words (rather than whines or grunts) to communicate; to work on mastering shapes, colors, numbers, or the alphabet; and to practice taking turns when playing with peers.
Resolutions can help elementary aged kids continue developing their independence; encourage them to self-groom, make (or help make) their own meals, and contribute with home chores. Depending on their age, you may challenge your kids to write or draw in a daily journal — to start honing their methods of self-expression. They can also nurture their hobbies or academic interests, via after-school clubs, extracurricular classes, and even free apps you can download.
In the area of H.O.P.E., seek out a non-profit that is highly interactive and provides some sort of portal between the donor and the sponsored. Giving back is especially significant during the holiday season, and a great way to get your kids thinking about being generous to others. You’ll likely find abundant opportunities through your local churches and community centers. National and international organizations also provide opportunities for the traditional pen pal connection, in which you can correspond and send care packages.
If you have teenagers, you likely already know they’re a little more vocal about their goals — since they have officially come into their own. Give them the same areas of suggestions, and make a point to sit back and listen to them. Your job as the parent of adolescents will be more of a guide than a director or dictator, and your own awesome resolutions will come in quite handy as good examples. Remember to make suggestions, but always let your kids decide on their own resolution. It’s also fun to make some family resolutions like traveling more, spending quality time together, or planning dinners on a weekly basis.
3. Choose the Right Medium
What good is a New Year’s resolution if you can’t hold yourselves accountable, right? When it comes to measuring your goals, it’s essential to choose the right medium. For tracking our steps, we have pedometers; and for tracking our goals, we should have a similarly effective system to keep us on the path to success. Try to choose something that caters to the type of resolutions you choose, and also fits your kids’ personalities and what motivates them.
There’s the tried and true charting system, in which you list your goals on a chart, and place stickers next to each one once it’s accomplished. For recurring actions, your chart may be set up to represent the months, or weeks — for each week that you successfully remember to clean your room, you place a sticker. The charting system is easy to make, and straightforward enough for even young toddlers to understand.
If you want to go the artsy route, try vision boards — collages made up of magazine or computer printed cutouts that represent your goals. If your child wishes to try more new foods in the new year, help them envision this goal, by pasting photos of delicious looking meals and different cultural cuisine on your poster board. The idea of the vision board is to help you stay motivated, every time you look at it hanging on your wall. Vision boards are less formal, but tend to have just as strong an effect (or stronger, for visually creative children) in crystallizing goals.
Remember, as you embark on this wonderful New Year’s tradition with your kids, try to emphasize the effort you put into making and keeping these goals, as much as the end results — this is a great chance to show your children that the journey is just as important as the destination.