United in Resolution: How Your Family Can Make the Most of the New Year

A new year is upon us, and it may bring with it promises of beginnings and opportunities for positive change. The start of the New Year is not just a marker of time, but it can also be a symbolic moment to reflect on the past and envision a brighter future. In addition, the New Year can be a time when you and your family create your special individual and family New Year’s resolutions. Developing an annual tradition in which all family members think about positivity can foster a sense of personal growth, for children and adults, and may encourage family bonding and improve goal-setting skills. Let’s discuss some strategies for setting New Year’s resolutions individually and within the family context and ideas for implementing practical approaches that can make this activity a meaningful experience for every family member.

Why set New Year’s resolutions with children

When parents or caregivers involve their children in setting New Year’s resolutions, they are modeling positive behaviors and offering children opportunities to learn how to set goals for themselves and begin to understand the value of personal development. Participating in goal setting can teach children responsibility and perseverance and can give them an opportunity to feel joy as they achieve something meaningful. By involving your children in this process, you empower them and strengthen the family bond as you work towards meeting shared objectives and create a tradition to look forward to every year.

The SMART way to set goals

Consider using the SMART goal framework to set your New Year’s resolutions. SMART goals provide a clear roadmap for success and are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Establishing SMART goals can ensure that resolutions set by family members are well defined, realistic, and attainable within a designated time frame.
Let’s break down the components of SMART goals with some examples:

Specific: Specify exactly what you want to achieve.
  • Traditional Resolution: “Exercise more.”
  • SMART Resolution: “Take a family walk for 30 minutes every evening after dinner.”
Measurable: Establish a way to track your progress, and determine when you have met your goal.
  • Traditional Resolution: “Read more books.”
  • SMART Resolution: “Read one book each month, and discuss it with the family.”
Achievable: Ensure that your goal is realistic and attainable.
  • Traditional Resolution: “Learn a new instrument.”
  • SMART Resolution: “Practice the guitar for 15 minutes every day.”
Realistic: Set goals that are reasonable and within your capabilities.
  • Traditional Resolution: “Get all A’s in school.”
  • SMART Resolution: “Improve my grades by dedicating 1 hour to homework each school night.”
Timely: Define a time frame for accomplishing your goal.
  • Traditional Resolution: “Learn a new language.”
  • SMART Resolution: “Complete an online language course by June.”

Start small and build up

Start small, and set goals that can be easily achieved. Using this approach can increase opportunities for positive feedback, prevent feelings of discouragement, and foster a positive and empowering mindset for all family members. When goals are within one’s grasp, the individual is more likely to stay motivated and committed. Starting small and reaching these goals allow individuals, especially children, a chance to experience the satisfaction of progress and success. Their confidence can also be improved by reaching milestones, and they may find ways to build on those accomplishments! By striving to keep goals attainable, families can set themselves up for a journey filled with achievable milestones, continuous growth, and fun.

Set family resolutions

In addition to each family member setting individual SMART goals, families can set resolutions (or goals) they want to achieve together. These shared objectives can strengthen familial bonds and encourage collective growth. When families set resolutions together, they foster an environment of collaboration and support in which each member plays a vital role in achieving shared aspirations. Listed below are some examples of family resolutions, resolutions for younger children, and resolutions for adolescents and teens.

Weekly Family Meals:
  • SMART Goal: “Have a family meal together once a week and be together at least 30 minutes with no phones at the table.”
Exercise Routine:
  • SMART Goal: “Engage in 30 minutes of family exercise each day and allow each family member the opportunity to choose an activity to engage in that week (e.g., dancing, walking the dog, going to the park).”
Cooking Together:
  • SMART Goal: “Make one evening ‘Family Cook Night’ where the entire family will prepare, cook, and eat a meal together. Each family member will get a chance to choose a meal they would like to prepare.”
Family Game Night:
  • SMART Goal: “Schedule a weekly family game night, and turn off screens to reconnect and enjoy quality time.”
For Younger Children:
  • Daily Chores:
    • SMART Goal: Complete morning routine: Get up, get dressed, make your bed, eat breakfast, and brush your teeth.
  • Reading Habits:
    • SMART Goal: “Read for 20 minutes a day either independently or with a family member.”
For Adolescents/Teens:
  • Screen-Free Time:
    • SMART Goal: Learn/practice a new skill that doesn’t involve the use of a screen.
  • Balanced Lifestyle:
    • SMART Goal: “Go outside for at least 1 hour a day to engage in physical activity like running, biking, tennis, or pickleball.”

Revisit resolutions and goals as needed

Adaptability can be key when it comes to setting goals. Allow flexibility for yourself and your child so you can adjust any pre-established goals throughout the year and encourage success. Kids grow and change rapidly, and their interests and capabilities will evolve. Adjusting goals, as needed, allows for a more realistic and encouraging approach and considers the developmental stage of your child and their priorities. Whether modifying learning objectives, altering extracurricular commitments, or pivoting to a new hobby, parents who can recognize and adapt to these changes can ensure children’s goals remain achievable and aligned with their needs and aspirations. Teaching children the value of flexibility in goal setting can equip them with essential life skills and can foster a resilient and positive attitude toward overcoming challenges.

Incorporating SMART goals into your family’s New Year’s resolutions can set the stage for a successful and fulfilling year. As you embark on this journey together, remember that your commitment to continuous improvement is vital. To further support your resolution-setting endeavors and make this process more rewarding for you and your children, explore the resources listed below. Here’s to a SMART and joyful New Year for your family!

References

Aghera, A., Emery, M., Bounds, R., Bush C, Stansfield, R. B., Gillett, B., & Santen, S. A. (2018, January). A randomized trial of SMART goal enhanced debriefing after simulation to promote educational actions. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 19(1), 112-120. https://doi.org/10.5811/westjem.2017.11.36524

Le, B. M., & Impett, E. A. (2019). Parenting goal pursuit is linked to emotional well-being, relationship quality, and responsiveness. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(3), 879-904. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407517747417

Nair, A., Nair, D., Girdhar, M., & Gugnani, A. (2021). Optimizing developmental outcomes by setting smart goals individualized home program for children with disabilities during COVID-19. International Journal of Physiotherapy and Research, 9(5), 4028–4034. https://doi.org/10.16965/ijpr.2021.184

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