For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” —Jeremiah 29:11
The new year is always a time for a fresh start. We hear people talking about setting new years resolutions but after a few months, it may not always be easy (or possible) to stick to the plan even if their heart tells them it’s the best thing they can do for themselves this year. For children, writing resolutions teaches children to be reflective, how to set achievable goals, decide what steps they will take to reach those goals, and stick to what they say they will do. It is a wonderful way to start out the year with their family when they sit together and think about what they would like to change or do better in the new year. But again, it is likely even harder for children to keep up with their resolutions. However, there are steps that parents can take to encourage and support their child as they reflect and set goals for themselves.
Parents Magazine suggests eight ways to help children make new years resolutions. The following is a summary of their original article in their online site: http://www.parents.com/holiday/new-years/resolution/8-ways-to-help-kids-make-new-years-resolutions/
1. Be Resolution Role Models—Parents can share their own resolutions with their children so they can see how their parents would approach the task. Some of the children’s resolutions can actually be modelled by the parents themselves. Dr. Carter says, “If what you want is for your kids to be out the door earlier, you need to work on yourself. I saw that when I was consistently ready at the time I wanted to leave; it was possible to ask my kids to make changes. Let’s not ask them to do more than we are willing to do.”
2. Keep a Positive Approach to Resolutions—When you sit down with your chil-dren, begin by going over the positive things that they accomplished in the past year rather than pointing out their shortcomings. Have children brain-storm things that they are able to do now that they were not able to do last year. Help them to reflect what they did to make that possible. Afterwards, ask them what they want to improve for this coming year.
3. Suggest-Don’t Dictate Resolutions—Children need to feel responsibility and ownership for their choices. Listen to what your children tell you and help them to make sure it is age appropriate and achievable. You may come up with cate-gories for them such as—personal goals (NIS has eight—enquiry, morality, resilience, communication, adaptability, respect, thoughtfulness, cooperation), friendship goals, helping goals and school goals.
3. Narrow Down the Resolution List—Two to three goals are reasonable. Break each of the goals into smaller steps to plan how it can be achieved. These resolutions need to be concrete, specific and manageable. “I will behave better” is too general. Help students to focus on which particular behavior they can work on. For younger children, they can draw a picture to express themselves.
4. Take Turtle Steps Toward Big Resolutions—Dr. Carter says that turning good intentions into habits is an important skill to teach children. She suggests parents break down each resolution into small and slow steps to help children achieve their goal. Make it easy to do over a period of time. It can be weeks or even months. Check in with children weekly or periodically to acknowledge how they are doing and do not bribe them into doing the resolution.
5. Follow Up but Don’t Nag About Resolutions—Avoid nagging children when they experience a lapse; rather affirm how hard it is and ask them to reflect what is making it difficult for them to achieve their goal. If the plan in achieving the goal is not working, parents can always adjust with the children.
6. Make Family Resolutions Together—This brings families closer. Suggest to children that they set two personal goals and one or two family goals. This can be as simple as “visit grandma more often” or “plan a trip”.
7. Make Resolutions a Ritual—Make sure there are no distractions when you gather to talk about how the resolutions are going and pay attention to each other. Set a tradition of praying together first or having hot chocolate together every time you talk about it. Appealing to the senses and helping create a warm environment is important.