Now that the buildup to 2013 has come and gone and everyone has had ample opportunity to contemplate and commit to New Year’s resolutions, I thought it would be a useful time to look past the hype and consider what really makes for family-friendly and longer-lasting resolutions.
Let me first say that I’m a big believer in the benefits of goal setting, and I do really well with defined start dates – even those that I fully realize are arbitrarily defined. In fact, the thought of starting a New Year’s resolution a day past the first of the year, or failing to follow through for at least six months leaves me feeling unsettled.
My family, however, doesn’t exactly share my attitude. Ask my husband and he’ll tell you that New Year’s resolutions are silly. Not that he doesn’t share my belief in setting goals and sticking to them, but he questions what makes identifying life-enhancing goals and then committing to them on January 1st any different than doing so on June 1st (or any other day of the year, for that matter)?
And if I were to have waited for resolution revelations from my 3 children (one pre-teen and two teenagers), I would have been offered up some vague and non-committal pledges at best – somewhere along the lines of “I think I may try to start running some time this year…if I feel like it.” Given that it’s not uncommon for children to be similarly resolution challenged when left to their own devices, I’ve concluded that it’s not only worthwhile for parents to assist children with choosing resolutions, but to help them pick ones that are both positive and realistic. Better yet, it helps to pick resolutions you can both support and share in as a family.
So just what approach should parents take? It’s interesting to start by considering the most popular adult New Year’s resolutions. No matter what top ten list you look at, it’s likely to include such goals as eating healthier, getting fit, losing weight, getting a better education or job, helping others, and getting organized. Given that these are all things we repeatedly aspire to, it seems to me the best thing we can do for our kids is to join them in setting goals that will help them (and us) lead happier, healthier, smarter and more organized lives right from the start.
Healthier. Having your child commit to such basic things as daily tooth-brushing and regular hand-washing may seem somewhat insignificant in the grand scheme of New Years resolution-making, but they’re really not. In fact, along with making sure your child is up-to-date on immunizations, eats healthy and stays active, hand washing and tooth brushing rank right near the top of ways to stay healthy. As for eating healthier, my own family’s resolution is to eat out less and cook more meals at home using an online menu planner that comes complete with weekly shopping lists and healthy recipes. (www.thefresh20.com)
Happier. When it comes to resolving to be happier, I have two overarching suggestions. The first is to focus on spending more quality time as a family, whether it’s in the form of after-dinner walks, road trips and family vacations together, bedtime books or a weekly game night. The other is helping others – a commitment that has also been clearly shown to make people – children and adults alike – happier. Remember that when it comes to helping others, it can be as simple as teaching young children to use their manners and share their toys or shoveling a neighbors driveway, to volunteering at or contributing to a local non-profit or helping those in need around the world. One of my family’s favorites is a non-profit micro-lending site, kiva.org, where families can read about and help contribute to worthy causes such as supporting education in India, or helping to buy a bull for a farmer in S. America.
Wiser. While there are countless age-appropriate resolutions children can make that will make them smarter, a particularly worthy New Year’s resolution is to simply read more, whether it’s reading aloud every day with your child, your child resolving to learn to read on his own this year, making shared quiet reading time a regular family activity, or committing to reading a certain number of books over the course of the year.
More organized. In case you’re wondering if the tasks might be too mundane to qualify as New Year’s resolutions, having your children commit to such routine tasks as putting away their toys, cleaning their rooms, and sorting/putting away their laundry really do make a difference towards fostering important lifelong organizational skills.
Originally posted on Omaha World Herald’s Live Well Nebraska