New Year's is a traditional time to celebrate new beginnings and to reflect on the important things you learned over the last year. During this time many of us create New Year's resolutions, where we set goals for ourselves to try and be better for the upcoming twelve months.
These resolutions, though, don't have to be done alone, or created only for adults. They can be a family affair. Christine Carter, Ph.D, says that children should start learning about resolutions around age 7-12, as this is when they are still young enough that their habits are not firm. They are old enough to make suggestions on their own, but can get help and guidance from the adults. As they grow into teenagers, resolutions can be made that are more meaningful and impactful.
Here are simple and practical ways to help your family make New Year's resolutions as a team.
Get outside more.
Studies have found that the majority of our best childhood memories take place outdoors. Activities such as camping, hiking, boating, swimming and just lying in the grass make a impactful memory on your child. It also is a way for your whole family to disconnect - from phones, television and video games. Without those distractions, you are able to stay present in the moment and really connect as a family. Lastly, it gets your family out and moving. Instead of having the whole family go on a diet, which can be negative on a child's psych if not presented correctly, teaching them the importance of finding fun exercise activities can help everyone burn some extra calories. Set up a schedule so that you can stick to the plan. For example, every Sunday afternoon your family picks an outdoor activity to do together.
Go to the library once a month.
Reading has countless mental and intellectual benefits on children, teens and adults. It stimulates a love of learning, creates better writers, and enhances ones communication skills. Reading can be fun, too. There are limitless topics one can read on, from fun fantasy books filled with dragons to memoirs about historical figures. Your family will have a great time finding a book that matters to them. After everyone finishes their book for the month, talk at the dinner table about one cool or interesting thing they got out of the experience. Beyond books, the library offers movies, board games, storytimes and even special preschool and STEM classes.
Expect a higher standard.
Each member of your family is a vital part to its growth and function. This means that everyone should be following a set of rules to make the family run smoothly. In the New Year, expect more from your children, like good behavior, responsibility, manners, kindness, and all of the goodness that lies within your kids. Teach them why these are important values to your family. At the same time, have your older children keep you to a higher standard. Keeping lines of communication open are vital to a family’s success. Do your children feel comfortable calling you out when you act out of anger and stress? Are you fighting with your spouse in front of them? You are the leader of your family, so set the standard.
Eat dinner as a family.
The best way to cultivate better eating habits and to introduce new or healthier foods to your diet is to eat together. If possible, you should eat breakfast and dinner together with your partner and children. Make small choices together like swapping out soda for water or milk, or consider doing "meatless Monday's". Children who try different kinds of foods at a young age tend to be less picky and to expand their palates, and by maintaining healthy eating habits, eating vegetarian may become your family’s favorite way of eating.
Not only will you get to enjoy good food (especially if you cook together), but this is also a great way to create time for daily connection as a family. Your kids will know they have an opportunity to talk to you at a consistent time each day. They can share what they learned about in school, what good or bad things may have happened, and what they are looking forward to tomorrow.
Start teaching them about finances.
As a parent, you may feel it is inappropriate to talk about your finances with your children, especially if you have outstanding debt you might be ashamed of. However if you wish to help your children make good decisions about money in the future, like smart spending habits and how to save, being open about family finances and creating financial goals as a family are surprisingly good ways to help prepare your children for adulthood. This can start out simply for young children, like giving them a weekly allowance and having them save up for a toy they want. For teenagers, this can mean sitting down each month and teaching them how to create a monthly budget to understand the money they make at work.
To make this year the year you actually follow through with your goals, make it a family affair. This way, everyone wins. You can share the sense of accomplishment together, which not only helps in achieving your shared goals, but can bring you closer together as a family.