This new year is the perfect time to reflect back on the ups and downs of the last 12 months. This has been a challenging year for everyone, and it's valuable to think about a fresh start in the coming months. As you set your personal goals for the new year, consider looping in your children during these times of reflection. Even little resolutions can make a big impact on your child’s — and your entire family’s — life.
Here are some of the benefits of making new year’s resolutions with your kids.
1. Boosting Family Togetherness
Resolutions can be good for children and families, as it encourages them to work together to form or improve habits. You can start as early as pre-school age, as long as the resolution is age-appropriate, something of which the child is capable, and gains the support of the family.
Resolutions that involve the entire family foster teamwork and support; families come together and encourage one another, which also inspires healthier habits for the whole family.
2. Understanding Time and Resource Management
Creating and following through with resolutions helps children learn how to plan.
When you’re making resolutions, it requires thinking about how to accomplish certain things by breaking a goal into smaller steps. A child must think how these steps fit into their day. They have to be proactive and tell a parent if they need a resource to help them meet their goal or alter their schedules to get their tasks completed.
And if there’s a bump in the road (which there inevitably will be), going through this process helps kids learn to problem solve, pivot and get back on track.
3. Learning Accountability
Setting a goal naturally encourages a level of accountability and responsibility. When you make a firm commitment with your child to help them get more active, you want to help them follow through with it.
Helping your child with their goal makes you reflect on your goals, too. You might think: Maybe I could do a little bit more in that area and be more accountable as well? Your child is also watching you work on your personal goals and you want to model positive behavior for them.
4. Boosting Mastery and Self-Confidence
Increased self-confidence can be a wonderful result of achieving goals attached to new year’s resolutions for kids.
Make sure their goals are small, realistic and accomplishable at first. When they’re successful, it bolsters their confidence and creates momentum. And when they experience success, they feel like they can do more and set bigger goals. Success is a contagious motivator to keep moving forward.
How to Guide Children in Their New Year’s Resolutions
Come together and decide goals for the new year as a family. Resist the urge to make a lot of suggestions on what your child could improve upon. Try to let them originate their own ideas from self-reflection. If it comes from them and it’s on their mind, they’re more likely to commit to it and see it through.
Then, your parental role is to guide each child’s ideas and offer support to fine-tune them so that they are reasonable and realistic. For example, if a very young child wants to exercise every day, a parent might help the child shape that goal into something more achievable. Perhaps it’s suggesting that the child starts with exercising three times per week and increase from there.
You can start the resolution process by setting a family meeting. Sit down with your kids and have a conversation about what resolutions are, field their interest in having a family resolution plan, and then work together to set some family goals and each child’s personal goals.
If ideas come up and you need further assistance in a particular area, seek help from the appropriate expert, such as your child’s pediatrician, or get a referral to a more specialized program or a dietician, if necessary.
It’s always a good idea to discuss your child’s health goals with his or her pediatrician or family medicine physician because this person knows your child and can offer guidance and support on a clinical and personal level.
Sometimes discussing these health goals with other family members and caregivers is also very important to support you and your child in a positive manner.
Start with short-term, attainable goals. Some short-term goals can be tied to a long-term goal but keep the focus short-term and stick to two to four goals at one time.
For example, if your goal is to eliminate soda from your diet, banning all soda at once would likely set you up for failure. Instead, set your short-term goal to reduce soda intake from three cans to one per day for the first week, and graduate up from there. In addition, goals should also be reasonable, concrete, specific and manageable.
Schedule routine check-in periods. This could be during a family meal once a week or biweekly to review progress, reinforce accountability, and work through challenges or adjustments that need to be made.
Regular check-ins give parents the opportunity to spread positivity, be role models and help motivate kids as they are working on their goals. Make sure to recognize accomplishments, no matter how small.
To Reward or Not Reward
Sometimes, motivating children is tricky business. And parents can fall victim to the reward cycle for positive behavior.
In the case of New Year’s resolutions or health goals, success alone should be the primary reward or motivating factor to foster in kids. Self-accomplishment and verbal praise should be enough. It’s an important lesson to learn that not everything comes with monetary or tangible rewards.
That said, if there is a certain area with which the child is struggling, or the experience has been a tough process, thinking about a reward could be appropriate. However, it should not be monetary or food-related.
If your child is doing really well and they meet their goal, maybe it’s scheduling a family movie night or an experience together to acknowledge and support your child for a job well done.
Partnering to Help Families Achieve Health Goals
While the holidays are a perfect time for self-reflection and goal setting, it’s important for families to realize that healthy goals can be set at any point in the year, as long as the entire family is on board, ready and willing to make the commitment together.