4 family-friendly New Year’s resolutions

Now that the buildup to 2013 has come and gone, and everyone has had ample time to contemplate and commit to a New Year’s resolution, let’s look past the hype and consider what really makes for a long-lasting, even family-friendly, resolution.

I’m a big believer in goal setting, and I do really well with defined start dates – even those I realize are arbitrarily defined. In fact, the thought of starting a New Year’s resolution even one day late, or failing to follow through for at least six months, leaves me feeling unsettled.

My family, however, doesn’t exactly share my attitude. Ask my husband and he’ll tell you that New Year’s resolutions are silly. Not that he doesn’t share my belief in setting goals and sticking to them, but he questions what makes identifying and  committing to life-enhancing goals on January 1 any different than doing so on June 16 or October 24.

And if I had waited for resolution revelations from my three children (one pre-teen and two teenagers), I would have been offered vague, non-committal pledges at best – somewhere along the lines of “I think I may try to start running some time this year … if I feel like it.”

It’s not uncommon for children to be resolution-challenged when left to their own devices, so as parents, why not help them pick resolutions of their own that are both positive and realistic? Better yet, pick ones you can share as a family.

Consider the most popular adult New Year’s resolutions. Eating healthier, more exercise, getting a better education or job, helping others, staying organized, etc. These are all things we repeatedly aspire to, so the best thing we can do for our kids is join them in setting goals that will lead to happier, healthier, smarter and more organized lives.

Healthier. Having your child commit to something basic like daily tooth-brushing and regular hand-washing may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of New Years resolution-making, but they’re really not. In fact, along with making sure your child is up-to-date on immunizations, eats healthy and stays active, hand washing and tooth brushing rank right near the top of ways to stay healthy. As for nutrition, my own family’s resolution is to eat out less and cook more meals at home using an online menu planner that comes complete with weekly shopping lists and healthy recipes. We use www.thefresh20.com.

Happier. Here I have two overarching suggestions. First, focus on spending more quality time as a family. That could mean after-dinner walks, road trips, bedtime books or a weekly game night. Second, help others. This is a commitment that has been shown to make people – children and adults alike – happier. This can be as simple as teaching young children to use their manners and share their toys, shoveling a neighbors driveway or volunteering at a non-profit (local or somewhere else around the world). One of my family’s favorites is a non-profit micro-lending site, www.kiva.org, where families can contribute to worthy causes like supporting education in India or helping to buy a bull for a farmer in South America.

Wiser.  There are countless age-appropriate resolutions children can commit to that will make them smarter, but this one is simple: Read more. Try reading aloud every day with your child or have them resolve to learn to read on their own this year. Make quiet reading time a regular family activity or commit to reading a certain number of books by the end of the year.

More organized. Have your children commit to routine tasks – putting toys away, cleaning their rooms, sorting/putting away laundry. This really does make a difference toward fostering important lifelong organizational skills.