Parents may have a secret weapon when it comes to making and keeping New Year’s resolutions: their kids. After all, most children exhibit near-perfect recall when it works in their favor (“On Monday when we were driving in the car you said that we could go to Target on Saturday to look at Lego”), above-average determination (“There is no way on earth I’m eating that broccoli”) and true grit (“I don’t care if it’s a blizzard outside — I’m wearing shorts to school”).
Put that stick-to-itiveness to good work with family New Year’s resolutions. The built-in accountability from family members should up the odds of success, and a common goal can foster unity. Here are eight ideas for New Year’s resolutions to make — and hopefully not break — as a family:
1. Eat together every week.
Sitting down for a meal together as often as possible can benefit the whole family. Numerous studies link regular family dinners with lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, and higher GPAs and self-esteem. If dinnertime is too chaotic, try a sit-down breakfast a few times a week instead. The meal doesn’t need to be elaborate or even home-cooked.
2. Create a new family tradition.
Use the New Year as the motivation to add a new tradition to the family folklore. Many people’s most cherished childhood memories centered around a beloved tradition, whether it’s breakfast in bed on a birthday, an annual camping trip or a regular Friday movie night.
3. Select a ‘stay active’ goal.
Combine fitness goals with family time by selecting a sport or activity that can keep everyone in shape. It can be as simple as a daily dog walk or weekly Saturday hikes or a more ambitious family 5K or sprint triathlon, depending on the age of children.
4. Try something new together.
Daily routines don’t leave a lot of time for spontaneity and experimentation, so make time to try a new hobby or activity or event together. Take a family cooking class, go snowshoeing together, select an unfamiliar spot for this year’s vacation — it doesn’t matter what you pick as long as you select it and do it together.
5. Set a savings goal.
It will likely be easier to make progress on that savings goal — whether it’s setting aside a $1,000 emergency fund or paying cash for a new car — with the whole family on board. Sit everyone down, talk through the family budget and come up with a goal together. It will be easier for family members to “go without” when they know the why and how behind the decision.
6. Designate a device-free time.
Screentime can really interfere with face time. Talk to family members about a time of day when everyone in the family (adults, too) can take a break from devices, like at mealtimes or bedtime. It may be worth considering setting aside an entire day each week to “fast” from time-sucking technologies.
7. Improve one aspect of the family diet.
Resolve to make one major improvement to what the family eats. This could mean trying a new vegetable on Sundays or skipping greasy takeout on Fridays, creating and following a meal plan, restricting sugar intake to special occasions only or eating more whole grains instead of refined carbs.
8. Be better listeners.
Everyone wants to be heard and understood, but in a family loud voices (and personalities) can drown out others. Brainstorm one way everyone in the family can improve his or her listening skills. This may mean giving each child a few minutes at dinnertime to recap their day or instituting an “eye contact” rule to let others see they are being heard.