Are you a fan of making New Year's resolutions? Who doesn't like to start with a clean slate and new ambitions for a better 2019? We all need a little inspiration and kick in the pants to tackle areas of our life that need attention. And for families especially, there are many ways parents can up their game and make home life more enjoyable.
One of the reasons resolutions tend to tank by the end of January is that we pledge to make too many drastic changes all at once and we can't sustain them. So, let's make a more strategic plan for you this year that has a greater likelihood of getting you a happy pay off.
My suggestion is to take a staged approached and focus on changes that will give you the biggest return on your investment. Since we know habits take about 30 days or so to get entrenched, instead of trying to undertake all your resolutions on January 1st, lay out 12 resolutions for the family and tackle one resolution each month.
Here is the plan I suggest you give a go:
Ya, ya, ya, you read this all the time. But seriously folks, if you don't refuel yourself, you are not going to be in any position to implement other goals. Let's get you, the leader of the family and essentially, the change agent, fully refreshed and replenished after the holidays, which can be the most stressful and exhausting time for parents. Whatever your go-to happy, relaxing, rejuvenating thing is, do it all month long so it's worked into your routine.
February: Family time
This month, tackle the number one important element that is urgently needed for families to stay healthy and happy: fun times together! Pick one family activity every week for the month of February and get into the habit of always scheduling something to do together weekly, even if that means just playing cards or watching a movie together. For family fun ideas check out Pinterest.
March: Tech limits
Sit down as a family to create boundaries to limit the use of technology. Limitations should include things such as parents not checking their phones constantly and putting a cap on the hours a teen is squirrelled away in their bedroom playing Fortnite. The key is doing this as a family activity and co-creating new limits everyone needs to respect. For help with appropriate guidelines check out Common Sense Media.
Lack of sleep is a problem in most families. Being tired impacts everyone's health and the family's sanity. Learn more about why sleep is so critical to pump up your motivation to tackle this challenge this month. Find out the proper number of hours of sleep everyone needs and revisit tuck-in times.
May: Meal times
Are your kids picky eaters or just too fidgety to sit with you at the table? Meal times are not only for nutrition and manners, but also a time of family cohesion. Use the month of May to get your family breaking bread together again and encourage a wider range of healthy food selections.
June: Family meetings
Family meetings are a time when the family comes together to plan the week, hand out allowance, and discuss issues that create problems in the home. Start the habit of weekly discussions about what is going well and areas that need improvement. The best meetings are one's where everyone problem solves together, not just parents laying down new rules.
School-age children and beyond need to learn about financial literacy. When we start to give children an allowance, they stop begging their parents for purchases and are less hostile towards them. Also, a child can't pay for a broken lamp if they don't have an allowance to draw from. Accountability and responsibility can't be given to a child if they don't have money.
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August: Staying out of fights
Sibling fights are one of the most common sources of angst for families. Believe it or not, when parents get involved, they inadvertently make matters worse because they unwittingly take sides. To reduce fights either walk away so you're not an audience to their antics, and simply state you trust them to work it out. Or, if you have to intervene, be sure both children experience the same consequence for fighting regardless of who started it or who supposedly wronged who. If cooperation moves the family closer and gets everyone more engaged, while fighting sends you away, your kids will learn to switch approaches. Kids want their parents time and attention. Show them how to get it positively. For a great book on sibling rivalry, check out the classic Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too. If the situation is not improving, seek family counselling.
September: Morning punctuality
Trying to get out the door for school on time can create family feuds. Use your family meeting time to make a plan together for the morning routine at the start of the new school year. Be clear that you will drive or walk anyone to school who is ready when it's departure time. Wait in the car instead of the foyer. They will come find you! If they miss the bus, don't drive them. It will be a tough month, but if you stick to your guns, your kids will be on time the rest of the school year.
October: Ending homework wars
Children often refuse to do their homework because they know if they delay, they can monopolize their parents' time. Establish a routine homework time after dinner and refuse to act as their homework police. Instead, only make yourself available for fun times after they are done their work. Children are more likely to stay self-motivated, get their own work done and meet their own commitments to their teacher when parents mind their own business. Homework is their responsibility, not yours.
November: Picking up after one's self
In November, we tackle keeping the house tidy. Again, use the family meeting as a time to get everyone's input on how to keep the house orderly. Ask for a commitment for what each child will do, and ask them to answer the question: "What should happen if people don't follow through with their commitments?" When you involve children in setting up reasonable consequences, you almost never have to use it. You can also hold kids accountable by setting a time when clean-up must be done and enforce it with a "when/then" statement. For example: "We agreed at our meeting that clean up would happen before dinner. When your stuff is picked up then I'll know you are ready for dinner."
Teaching children about helping others should happen throughout the year, but there are so many times to capitalize on this during the holiday season. It's easy for kids to develop an attitude of entitlement if we don't direct their attentions to others. Ask your children what they would like to do for others over the holidays. Perhaps they want to buy something for a toy drive, donate old clothes to a shelter, work at a food bank as a family, make bracelets to sell and give the money to a children's charity or whatever else captures their interest.
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