As adults, we typically think about New Year’s resolutions as goals for ourselves, and the common ones that come to mind are generally fitness/health related: “I’m going to lose 20 pounds.” “I’m going to go to the gym every day.” “I’m going to start eating healthy and go on a diet.” I want us to rethink how we do resolutions, especially when it comes to our kids. Resolution setting is a great opportunity to model our experiences with resolutions and goal setting with our kids, and practice these important skills together.
A New Year’s resolution is really a goal, something we want to achieve and/or instill in ourselves. In this week’s On Call for All Kids, Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph.D., from the Center for Behavioral Health at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, provides some effective tips to help parents make resolutions with their children.
For kids, it is a great idea to think about New Year’s resolutions in a few ways:
- behaviors you want to become habits
- new opportunities for teamwork as a family
- a fun opportunity to see what your child wants do with the new year
Should parents encourage New Year’s resolutions as a family or as an individual?
Both! But the key is making sure these are achievable resolutions, and that everyone feels that they want to achieve the resolution, is excited about it, and has some level of independence in choosing the resolution or resolutions. Keep resolutions positive, we want this to be things we should be doing, not things to avoid.
What are the components of resolutions?
Just like goals, we should make resolutions that are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. By making resolutions that likely are not achievable, we will not feel the positive reward of success, and in turn won’t achieve the goal or will avoid it because of this lack of success. This can lead to future avoidance of similar resolutions/goal-setting.
How do we hold ourselves accountable? What if we get frustrated a month or a few months into the year?
Checking in and recognizing what the barriers are to achieving our resolutions is key. What is getting in our way? Did we let this go for a bit and maybe it’s time to “get back on the horse?” And, forgiving ourselves for letting it go for a bit and recovering smoothly teaches our kids good problem-solving strategies too. This is a great opportunity to revise our thinking and finding new ways to experience success, which may include adjusting our resolution a bit.
What are some great ideas for discussing New Year’s resolutions for kids?
- Kindness, one random act of kindness per day.
- As parents, praising our kids every day for something they did well.
- As kids, making sure to thank someone every day for going out of their way.
- Volunteering as a family, choosing a group or charity to support, every month or on a timeline that is feasible for the family.
- Learning a new vocabulary word every day.
- As a family, learning a new language and only speaking that language at home one day per week, or one meal per week, etc.
- Starting a family activity together (game night, craft, etc.).
- Reframing a negative thought every day.
- Spend less time on electronics, video games, social media, etc.
- Using less plastic, being more eco-friendly.
Try to refrain from making New Year’s resolutions something that are really chores or home care. Also, make sure we phrase any goal in a way that is SMART.
What are some fun ways to display our resolutions?
Having everyone write out their resolution and posting it in a place that is seen every day is a great idea. I love writing on the mirror in the bathroom, and that is a great place to use dry erase markers and write our resolutions out and remind ourselves each day. We can also use jars to keep track of how many times we do our resolutions, by putting a bead or stone in the jar, or put together a family competition of how many days in a row you can stay true to your resolution – when you miss a day, you have to start again, and whoever has the longest streak each month, wins!
But the most important thing is to sit down and discuss this as a family, and to make sure kids are given the opportunity to make their own resolution too. A new year is a new start, and full of much fun and opportunity.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital medical experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report.