New Year resolutions, more often than not, never make it into the year’s list of accomplishments for adults making it all the harder to sell kids on the idea of setting lofty goals without the perseverance to actually make them happen. It does not have to be that way, however. Walking through the process of targeting the most important objectives and making a plan to get there as a family, turns an onerous “should do” into a fun group project in which family relationships can be built and strengthened.
Starting with motivation rather than wishful thinking is the first step. Then involve the children in the process of setting their ambitions on something about which they really care. Break it down into specific actions that will slowly move the kids closer to achieving success in their New Year’s resolutions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends health related goals, both mental and physical. However, goals for family fun and togetherness can keep the plan moving forward, even if the child hits a snag on the road to new habits, which will undoubtedly happen.
Do not overload kids with too many self-improvement projects at once. Let him or her lead the way in choosing what to work on with discreet guidance but no heavy handed compulsion to select one New Year resolution over another. Narrow the field to one to three realistic focus areas, depending on the age of the child and the complexity of achieving the chosen goals. One idea is to select a health goal, a mental or chore habit goal and a family fun goal.
Health goals should target healthy habits such as getting more exercise and sleep, increasing water intake and eating more vegetables and fruits rather than putting the emphasis on weight. Still, health and wellness is not the only category that kids have to choose from when setting New Year resolutions. Consider the family’s values and suggest, although do not require, goals that reflect what is most important to the family in terms of building character and instilling a sense of integrity in passing on those ideals. Some ideas might include, community volunteering to support a cause, help others or protect wildlife or the environment. Spiritual disciplines such as praying, scripture reading and church involvement are also candidates for resolution making endeavors.
Pediatric psychologist Dr. Anai Cuadra of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine recommends helping children clearly define their New Year resolutions in order to up the odds of success. Identifying five main components of the idea can help turn the goals into actionable steps that kids can understand and follow. First, describe the desired activity. Then decide on the frequency, duration, and location of the activity. Lastly, name the person or people with whom the child wishes to do the activity. This last can be an important motivator as working on a goal with others is more fun for kids and adults alike than doing it alone; and fun is a driving force of its own, upping the stimulus toward success.
Parents should be involved in helping their kids walk through the steps of achieving their New Year resolutions, making quality time with them part of the plan for success. At the same time, parents should remember that their children learn how to handle goal-setting and achieving the goals by watching what the adults in their lives do. Therefore, setting a good example of follow through and perseverance through difficulty is of the utmost importance in helping children establish a can-do attitude toward their own goals. Remember that a New Year resolution is a journey of baby steps toward new habits, so start small, build on successes and revise as necessary to keep both parents and children moving toward their vision of a better life in the future.
by Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Image courtesy of SLO County Bicycle Coalition – Flickr License