December 29: Happy New Year
With New Year’s Eve approaching, so much is being written about what a difficult year this has been and how the vast majority of people can’t wait for 2020 to end. These sentiments are so legitimate. At the same time, I can’t help but think that the past 9+ months have also represented a significant period of time in the lives of children and families, and I think it is worthwhile to reflect on this interval and think about what it has meant to each of us.
In my family, our year-end reflection takes the form of a New Year’s Eve Survey. This is a fun and flexible tradition that can grow with your family. If you have babies, toddlers, or preschoolers at home, the parents will be the ones reflecting on the year. Once children are in mid-elementary school, they can join in and (perhaps with adult assistance) fill out a written survey, a google doc, or just answer questions as you sit together as a family. If your survey is in written form, plan some time to talk together about everybody’s answers.
Here are some of the topics I like to cover and a few sample prompts (some of which are most relevant for tweens or teens):
Reflections on the past year:
Think of a time that you showed kindness or compassion in 2020.
If you could re-live one day in 2020 – and it would be just the same – which day would it be?
Can you think of a time that you were brave or showed courage during 2020?
If you could re-do one day in 2020, which day would it be and what would you change?
When you think about pandemic-related disappointment, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
This was a tough year in so many ways, can you think of a silver lining, something unexpected and positive that happened?
Favorites – for example, favorite book, movie, playlist, podcast, and/or song from the past year.
A couple of questions that specifically appeal to children:
What is your funniest memory from the past year?
What was the best food that you ate this year?
During the past year, what was your most disgusting or gross experience?
General predictions – for example, who will win the World Series?
Looking ahead to the New Year:
What is one habit that you want to break in 2021?
What is one new skill that you hope to acquire this coming year?
What are your 2 greatest wishes, hope, and/or dreams for 2021?
Personalized predictions – each year, I write one specific question for each child who is completing the survey. I leave these for the end because they are generally the part the children look forward to most. For example:
Predict how many teeth Jack will lose this year.
Ellie is getting a new hamster in January – do you have a suggestion for what it should be named?
Ideally I’d suggest trying to strike a balance between questions that require thought and reflection and those that are fun or silly. While it may be tempting to include loads of questions, I’d suggest limiting the overall length of the survey so that participation feels enjoyable and not burdensome. If you decide to give this a try, I’d love to hear back about how it went.