If you typically start the New Year fresh by making resolutions, consider getting your kids in on the tradition this year. Not only can it be a valuable teaching moment about setting goals and sticking to them, but the practice of choosing an achievable resolution for the new year can be a fun way for kids to develop their communication and decision-making skills. "Parents can start by explaining what a resolution is and give examples of ones they have set in past years," says Dr. Kristen Eastman, PsyD, a pediatric clinical psychologist at Cleveland Children's Hospital. "Asking your children for ideas and helping them evaluate the options together is really important."
Just keep in mind that resolutions should always be discussed in a positive way with children: for example, saying "I'm going to do this..." instead of "I'm going to STOP doing this..."
"You don't want your child to feel like something in wrong with them now," Dr. Eastman explains. "Rather, frame the conversation as 'something that could be better if we did this.'" Also, take care to help your child pick a resolution that is both achievable and specific. If your child suggests well-intentioned but vague ideas like "Be a better friend" or "Be healthier," try to help her filter those ideas into tangible actions that can be done every day, either by herself or together as a family: "Help a friend with math homework before every test" or "Spend 30 minutes outside each day."
Here are eight suggestions for good resolutions that kids can make:
Remember that when it comes to resolutions, it's important for parents to lead by example. In other words, your child is more likely to accomplish her resolution if she sees you sticking to your own goal (which can be tough!). And don't be afraid to adjust your goals along the way if they're becoming stale or—imagine!—you actually accomplish them. There's value in teaching kids to follow through on a goal long-term, even if they need to tweak it along the way.
Now, here's the million dollar question: How do you help your child stick to his or her resolutions (and complete your own as well)? Easy, Dr. Eastman says, "Find a way to make it fun!" Maybe for your family that's tracking progress with a visual reminder, like putting marbles or cotton balls in a glass jar every time your child completes his or her goal. Or, perhaps it's having a little family competition of who can stick to their goal the longest and rewarding the winner with a special privilege. Find out what motivates your family, and go for it!