We’ve all heard ‘New Year, new you’, but have we ever stopped to ask ourselves whether that’s the sort of attitude we want our kids to pick up about themselves?Chances are, there’s a lot you’re already doing right as a family.
Instead of thinking of new years as a time to start again, why not see it as an opportunity to build on your successes to date, and see how much further you can go? Here’s a few ways you might want to start:
1. Set New Year’s Goals, not New Year's Resolutions
Research shows that progress toward goals leads to increased happiness — and yet while over half of us set New Year’s resolutions, just 9% of us succeed in keeping them. What this tells us is that framing matters. Goal setting is positive: something to shoot for without feeling too bad if you miss or go in another direction. Resolutions tend to be framed negatively in terms of things we must do or else. As soon as a day goes by in which the resolution is not kept, the whole thing is written off as a failure, leading to self doubt and anxiety.
“Goals are very important to humans — including kids and teens — because they help to motivate our behavior. Setting a goal and working toward it, or eventually achieving it, makes us feel good because of the sense of accomplishment we experience,” Sean Tams, a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio told Yahoo Life. “However, [resolutions] that are framed around something that is seen as a deficit — such as not being fit enough, or not being smart enough — may contribute to feelings of anxiety or worthlessness."
This year, instead of setting New Year’s Resolutions, send positive, affirming signals to your children by deciding on goals for the year to work towards incrementally.
2. Prioritize Kindness
Instead of setting goals that emphasize achievement like high grades or sports medals, consider setting goals that cultivate values, such as kindness, generosity, gratitude and thoughtfulness.
“Times are tough for a lot of families at the moment, which is why we could all do with a little kindness and appreciation,” says Jo Thurston, Parent Talk advisor for Action For Children.” A great New Year’s resolution is to commit to praising acts of kindness from your children – anything from them being kind to family members, friends and even pets. Encouraging behavior you want to see more of from your children can help boost their confidence and encourage more thoughtful behavior in the future.”
3. Make Room for Quality Time Together
We get it, modern life is hectic, and only getting more so as parents struggle to keep up with the cost of living. But while providing a warm and comfortable home is vital, how happy that home is depends on the interactions within it, not how much stuff you have.
This year, why not set a new goal for spending quality time together, even if it’s only a few minutes each day? Quality time is a habit, so start slow by making small changes to your daily routine that allow for conversations with your children, whether it’s in the car on the school run, at the dinner table, or just before bedtime. You can then expand the quality time from there, finding new opportunities in your day to get to know your children for the fun, quirky people they are.
4. Divert Screen Time to More Enjoyable Activities
American kids aged 8-12 spend four to six hours a day on average looking at screens. Among teens, this rises to nine hours a day. Not only does this run the risk of exposing them to unsuitable content, it also has real health implications too.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, too much screen time can lead to sleep problems, Lower grades in school, not enough outdoor or physical activity leading to weight problems, mood problems, poor self-image and body image issues and more.
Limit screen time by making the alternatives more fun than looking at a screen is. There are a whole world of alternatives out there, such as:
- Games - whether board games, table games like chess, or traditional games like jacks
- Arts and Crafts - sewing, knitting, embroidery, painting, pottery and more
- Practical Crafts - model making, cookery, basic mechanics and electronics
- Collecting - stamps, shells, dinosaur bones, comic books
- Outdoor activities - den building, fishing, dog walking, horse riding, foraging
5. Read Together Our Loud
A great way to carve out quality time is to set aside some time each week for reading out loud as a family. Bedtime is a popular time for reading with children as it’s a great calm-down activity to get them in the mood for bed. Children love to be read to at all ages, and reading to children helps to expand their vocabulary beyond their reading level, opening them up to a world of books that they might not yet be ready to tackle on their own.
But reading doesn’t only have to be a bedtime activity. “A popular new tradition among home school families can be adopted by any parent, home school or not,” says Bethany Mandel, editor of Heroes of Liberty. “Poetry Tea Time was created by Julie Bogart of Brave Writer. Bogart argues that families should establish a regularly scheduled time — in our family it’s weekly, on Wednesdays — when kids and parents can gather and enjoy a cup of tea (or hot coco in the winter), a treat, and some poetry.”
If poetry isn’t your thing, pick a book instead and read a chapter a week - or consider a series of books such as Heroes of Liberty, which can also be read weekly.