New Year’s resolutions tend to be selfish in nature. The top resolutions usually revolve around losing weight, getting ahead at work, and other self-improvement ventures. Research shows that only 8 percent of resolution makers reach their goals. What if this year you made your resolutions about something bigger than yourself and then committed to making them happen?
As a parent, your kids are clearly your priority, whether they live with you all the time or you share custody. Chances are that you are doing a great job already, but like anything in life, there is always room for improvement. As you face the New Year, focus your resolution energy on your kids with these parent-specific goals in mind:
Slow down. If you need any proof that kids grow up too quickly, just ask any parent who has adult children. When you share custody, the time you spend with your kids is even more fleeting. Instead of filling your time with your kids with endless activities, just spend some time talking to them around the dinner table or sitting with them at bedtime. Remember that raising kids is not about how much you or they accomplish—it is about giving them roots, and then wings. Slow down this year and really appreciate what it means to be a parent and then show your kids that love.
Unplug. It is not just parents who are constantly attached to smartphones, tablets, and computers. Over 78 percent of kids under the age of 8 use smartphones or tablets regularly, and that number grows with age. There is nothing wrong with being connected—but look for periods when you can set down the electronics and focus completely on your kids. Set a “no-phone” time frame each day or just vow to unplug at the end of the workday and not look at your electronics until your kids are in bed. You may experience some unexpected relief when you have a reason to walk away from your smartphone.
Get fit. Resolving to get in shape is about more than vanity. Your kids depend on you to be healthy, and besides, they take a lot of extra energy to chase around anyway. Find simple ways to increase your daily activity levels and include your kids too. If you share custody, taking evening walks or bike rides on the days they are with you can be a new family tradition that you start. An added benefit: exercise produces endorphins which improve the mood of every member of the family.
Learn something new. What is one thing you have always wanted to try? Maybe for you it is an extreme sport, or a cooking class, or even going back to high school or college. Stop procrastinating and start being proactive about whatever it is that you want to learn. If it is age-appropriate, invite your kids to learn alongside you. As the parent, you will be setting the excellent example that it is never too late to try something new. As a family, you will grow closer through the shared experience.
Avoid negativity. Whether you are newly divorced or have been separated from your ex-spouse for years, the emotions that surround the process tend to be negative. You may never be able to view your divorce in a positive light, but you can certainly view your current life in a happy way. Negative energy is contagious, even if you never speak a word. The good news is that the same is true for positive energy. When you start to feel a cloud of negativity closing in, reroute those emotions to something upbeat and your outlook will improve, making you a happier, more available parent.
Organize your time. This may sound like a suggestion that belongs on a resolution list for business or home owners, but it is actually just as relevant to parents, especially ones who co-parent. Your custody schedule is likely set in stone via court documents, but is the rest of your time laid out in the best way? If possible, stack all of your most pressing work tasks and errands on the days when your kids are with the other parent. Free up as much time as possible to focus on your kids when they are with you. Of course, not every parent can spend every moment of a custody arrangement with their kids, and that’s okay. Organizing your time is sure to help you find more of it though, so take a hard look at your schedule and make some adjustments.
Get involved. Perhaps you already spend a lot of time on the sidelines at your kids’ sporting events or always volunteer for classroom parties. Still, there are always more ways to reach out and show your kids that you want to be around them as much as possible. Depending on the terms of your custody agreement, make a point to call or text your kids every single day at the same time. Use video messaging applications for an even more personal approach. If you have not been able to make it to extracurricular activities in the past, do some rearranging and find at least one or two times each season to show up for your kids. If your schedule and custody arrangement allows it, take on coaching or classroom responsibilities. Consider what is most important to your kids and then find a way to play a bigger role in it.
Parenting is an evolving process. All parents, divorced or not, are works in progress when it comes to being the best for their kids. As you look to the year ahead, resolve to do what it takes to be a positive role model and bigger presence in the lives of your kids. Leave any excuses at the door and remember that no matter what your arrangement is, any time spent with your kids is precious—so make the most of every moment.
What will you resolve to do in the coming year?