At the start of the new year, I often have conversations with parents about New Year's resolutions. Many children write New Year's resolutions as part of a school assignment, but parents also ask me whether this is a practice they should encourage at home. As with so many aspects of parenting, this is a situation that varies based on individual preference and parenting style. If you and your family are in a habit of setting New Year's resolutions, that can be lovely. Alternatively, if this approach does not feel genuine to your family or if writing resolutions simply doesn’t appeal to you, then feel free to ring in the New Year without them.
If you have small children and are curious but unsure about whether setting resolutions is the right fit for your family, you can explore the idea of setting resolutions by asking your preschooler one or two simple questions such as:
“In January, sometimes people like to think about something they would like to do differently in the new year. Do you have any ideas about something you'd like to do differently in 2024?”
“In the new year, I like to think about setting one or two goals or challenges for myself. You might like to try that too. You could think about something you want to learn, such as learning to whistle or to snap your fingers. How does that sound?”
If New Year's resolutions don't seem authentic to you and your family, keep in mind that it's helpful to model and promote the concept of setting and working towards goals throughout the whole year. One way to do this is to talk explicitly with your children when you yourself are working on achieving a specific goal. For example:
“I've noticed that I'm checking my phone a lot before breakfast and I'd really like to break that habit. I'm going to make a plan to look at my messages before breakfast and then put my phone away in a drawer until after we've finished eating.”
“I've been drinking 3 cups of coffee a day recently and that feels like more than I'd like to be drinking. I'm going to set a plan of having one cup of coffee at breakfast and one cup of coffee mid-morning, then I'm going to put a post it note on the coffee maker reminding me to only drink decaf after 11:00 AM. I think that will help me achieve my goal.”
“Our family has been so busy this year and one thing we didn’t create much time for is reaching out to help others. I thought we could set a goal of making a donation to the food pantry once a month. We can write it on our family calendar so that we remember to do it.”
Whatever time of year you choose to set goals or resolutions, it's useful for parents to actively model self-awareness, engaging in self-reflection, and working towards goals. When parents explicitly model these behaviors for their children, they are acknowledging that we are all works in progress and at any time in one's life one can set out to flexibly change a habit, attitude, or pattern.
I wish you and your family a happy and peaceful New Year.