The tradition of making resolutions at the new year is a very old one. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, and medieval knights took the Peacock Vow at the end of the Christmas season each year to reaffirm their dedication to chivalry. There’s evidence that making resolutions at the new year may even work! A study found that 46% of those who made new year’s resolutions succeeded in their goals, which is a ten times greater success rate than those making life changes during other parts of the year. Because this is such a common tradition, your child may want to join in! Here are some tips on helping your kids make new year’s resolutions.
First, Reflect on the Previous Year
It’ll be easier to know where to move forward if you look at where you’ve been. Sit down with your child (or even the whole family!) and talk about successes in the past year, and things you’d like to improve on. Encourage your child to do the same, though young children may struggle a little bit with this. That’s okay! You can help them out by making suggestions if you’d like, but let your child make the final decision. Do they want to do better at keeping their rooms clean, or to learn to draw a horse?
Encourage Goal Setting
Goal setting is a skill in which we make small, measurable goals instead of one big vague goal. Goal setting increases the likelihood that we’ll be successful in the changes we want to make, so it’s an excellent skill to start teaching young. If your child is too young to fully understand the process, that’s fine. You can talk to them and help them refine their resolutions. Some examples:
- Resolution: I want to keep my room clean all year.
- Goal Setting Version: I want to clean my room every weekend.
- Resolution: I want to learn to draw a horse.
- Goal Setting Version: I want to practice my drawing for an hour a week.
Learning to set goals in this way not only improves our likelihood of reaching our goals, but it can also make us happier people. We feel less frustrated when pursuing our goals, because they’re more achievable when broken down into goals, and because you have a kind of road map to reaching them. This is a skill that will help your child through school and even through their career as adults!
Remember, goal setting is a skill; it takes practice and develops over time. If your kiddo doesn’t quite get it right this time, that’s okay!
Encourage Age Appropriate Goals
Kids of certain ages will be more capable of achieving certain goals. Encouraging your child to make age-appropriate goals can help them avoid frustration and disappointment. Here are some ideas for age-appropriate resolutions:
Preschoolers may struggle to understand the concept of a resolution, and that’s okay! It may still seem like a fun activity to them and if they want to participate, they should be encouraged to! Some good goals for preschoolers may include:
- Brushing teeth morning and night
- Washing hands
- Picking up toys each day
Kids in this age group are better able to understand what a resolution is, and may participate more actively in choosing one. Some good goals for this age group include:
- Drinking more water (a lifelong healthy habit!)
- Being friendly to other children
- Doing better in a particular school subject
- Waking up on time each morning
Teenagers are going to be more likely to make resolutions independently, though they may still want to participate if it’s a family activity. Some good goals for teens include:
- Being kind and helpful to younger siblings
- Dealing with stress constructively
- Managing conflict in healthy ways
Write Down Your Resolutions
Little kids sometimes have difficulty keeping these resolutions in mind. It’s not that they don’t think they’re important, it’s just because of their age! Resolutions will be easier to remember if they’re written down! Your kiddo may need help expressing their goals in words, or even just in the mechanical act of writing them down. Keep the resolutions (write your own down, too!) in a place where your child has access to them. Writing them in a format that can be posted on the fridge or hung on a wall is even better! Sticker chart, anyone?
Having access to a written version of these resolutions reminds your child that the process matters more than the end result, because the process is where the growth happens! This also fosters a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset, which will help your child throughout their whole lives.
We all love the feeling of achieving a goal and your child is no different! It may be more difficult for them to delay gratification throughout the whole year, though. It’s important to celebrate small successes with your child, so they see that they’re making progress toward their goal. You could make a sticker chart for them and add a sticker each time they do something to forward their goal. Even just a word or two of encouragement when they achieve something on the way to their goal will help. They’ll know they’re not doing it alone.
The other side of this is to encourage your child when they feel discouraged. Sometimes reaching goals may seem very big and overwhelming to a child, and letting them know that you believe in them can really help. Or, if your child’s goal really is too big, you can help them adjust it, and let them know that it’s okay to do so!