Traditional New Year's resolutions focus on individual goals for self-improvement: start a diet, stop a bad habit or save more money. But what about resolutions to strengthen your family?
Family resolutions-an increasingly popular parenting trend-can help to unify your home and teach kids the value of goal-setting. You don't have to do anything too radical to see those positive effects, either. In fact, Dr. Benjamin Siegel, pediatrics and psychology professor at Boston University School of Medicine, warns against going overboard when making family resolutions. Instead, limit them to a small but meaningful list. "It should be based on things that are doable without economic hardship," he told PBS.
Here's a list of five simple but worthwhile resolutions you can start with your family this year.
1. Commit to less screen time and more quality time
Every family can relate: we're spending more time behind phones and tablets and less time actually interacting with each other in person. And it's not just kids-adults are guilty, too. Unchecked, bad screen time habits can turn a family into tech-addicted zombies.
In 2016, limit the time your family spends on devices. Don't frame this as a punishment but rather as a way you can enjoy each other's company. Ideas might include banning phones at the table during mealtimes, establishing regular, scheduled breaks from devices or creating screen-free zones throughout the house.
2. Play outside more
We've all heard the benefits of spending more time outside. Outdoor time helps children grow stronger, stretch their creativity, decrease aggression, sleep better and boost their mental health. And studies show how adults who care about the environment generally spent lots of time outside as children.
Given all these benefits, make 2016 the year you focus on getting your whole family outside regularly. If you want to shake up the usual outdoor activities-hiking, swimming, sledding, playing at the park-there are plenty of lists of outdoor fun you can experience with your children. You can even start a new outdoor family hobby like ultimate frisbee or biking.
3. Go green
Make a family commitment to help the planet in 2016. Teach your kids that you want to keep the earth beautiful and healthy for their benefit, and help them understand how to continue preserving the planet for their own kids to enjoy.
Start small-use reusable containers instead of juice boxes in lunches, and start cleaning with natural vinegar-based solutions instead of chemical-based supplies. Larger efforts might include using less water or driving less often. One of the biggest green goals you can make is investing in solar energy. Use this calculator to determine the costs and savings of using solar panels for your home, and explain the potential benefits to your children.
4. Make a local adventure bucket list
Too often we rely on big vacations to create family memories together. Laura Vanderkam, author of "What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend," suggests maximizing your shorter weekend time. She told the New York Times that on open weekends, kids often end up in front of the TV because parents have failed to plan out the day.
To avoid that scenario, make a family bucket list of things you would like to do in the area. These can be as simple as a walk downtown for ice cream or as elaborate as a daytrip to a nearby theme park. The goal is to take more mini adventures as a family. By planning downtime, you'll eliminate cabin fever in small children. And you may even get to schedule in some quality time with your busy older children.
5. Schedule weekly meetings
Your family is constantly changing, from each kid's developmental stages to each parent's current work schedule. "With the hectic pace of life today for both parents and children, families rarely take time to sit down as a group to make deliberate decisions about how the family will function," said the Center for Parenting Education.
To combat the chaos of daily life, plan regular, 15-minute weekly meetings to touch base with each other. These meetings can be great opportunities to plan future family activities. Also consider discussing everyone's high and low points of the week to get an idea of what is affecting your children. Address any issues plaguing your family, too, like an ongoing fight between the kids or a contentious family situation that has not yet been resolved.
Family resolutions can help you bring your family closer together, instill healthy habits in your children and make life a bit more fun. Nurturing your family relationships is one of the most important things you'll do in the coming year.