Every year, sometime during that haze between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, we say that next year will be different. We resolve to make changes, vowing to become better versions of ourselves. We have the best intentions, yet rarely are our resolutions lasting and meaningful. You miss a few days or don’t reach a goal as quickly as you’d hoped, get discouraged, and soon may forget or give up altogether. Why does this happen?
We certainly don’t aim to set ourselves up for failure. Often, it is because our expectations are too high and our goals are too broad, making many resolutions not realistically attainable.
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Setting intentions does not need to be an annual event; in fact, it does not serve us to set lofty resolutions and try to live up to our own demands. Instead, try checking in with yourself and your kids on a more frequent basis, mindfully working together throughout the year to make positive changes as a family. If you slipped a little since your last check-in? That’s OK, too. There is nothing stopping you from getting back on track any day of the year (and no, you don’t have to wait for “next week” either).
One of the best ways to get your kids on track is leading by example. Common goals among families include:
▪ Eating healthier. Talk about your own food choices with your kids. Let them see you packing well-balanced meals for work, cook and enjoy healthy dinners as a family, and go grocery shopping together while discussing nutrition labels. Cooking together is a fun activity that teaches kids life skills about nutrition and independence. Throw on some good music and get kids involved with age-appropriate meal preparation tasks! It can be especially rewarding to share a meal that was created together.
▪ Getting more active. Take the initiative to sit down with your kids and schedule physical activities that are fun for everyone. Maybe each family member can pick an activity in rotation. Sign up for a family-friendly 5K several months from now and make a plan to train and participate together. Family fun walks/runs have great activities for kids after the race. Dogs can usually come, too! Break down the 5K training into short distances and set the tone by helping everyone track their progress through apps or on paper.
▪ Spending more time together and less time on devices. If you want your kids to get off their phones and tablets, show them it’s important by doing so yourself. Plan family movie nights, game nights, and meals with devices out of reach so everyone can focus on the activity and the simple delight of being together. Set some boundaries, such as no phones at dinner or in the car and instead replace them with “family check-in time.”
Some strategies can help you achieve your personal goals while helping your kids achieve theirs:
▪ As a parent, set an intention for yourself to find at least one opportunity every day to praise each of your children for something specific. This can be for anything you genuinely enjoyed or were proud of such as something they accomplished or made, or a way they behaved. Continued encouragement in a variety of areas helps kids feel successful and more confident about reaching their goals.
▪ Together as a family, write down your short- and long-term goals. Have your children do the same, or write them for your kids. Printing out photographs that represent children’s goals is particularly helpful for kids who can’t read yet or prefer visual reminders.
▪ Break goals down into manageable steps. It can be incredibly daunting to think about one large end goal, knowing you want to achieve something but being unsure if you’ll get there. Set time frames for tackling smaller pieces of larger goals. Hang up your goals somewhere readily seen (for example, the refrigerator or a closet door).
▪ Schedule a special time to check in with your family about achievements and setbacks once a week, every other week, or once a month. Great settings for these conversations are during a meal, family stroll, or living room hang-out session. Regular discussions help increase communication, motivation, and accountability.
Whatever your family’s resolutions are this year, remember that they can be fluid. Set your kids up for success by helping them tweak their goals throughout the year, break larger goals into smaller chunks, communicate regularly, and help each other maintain the confidence and enthusiasm you had when you first rang in 2018.
If you believe you would benefit from gaining additional parenting strategies, contact the Mailman Center for Child Development Behavioral Pediatric Clinic at 305-243-6857.
Ellen Kolomeyer, M.S., is a pediatric psychology resident at the Mailman Center for Child Development, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Ruby Natale, Ph.D., Psy.D., is an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami Health System.