Have you decided on a New Year’s resolution yet? How many times have you started a new year planning to exercise more, eat healthier, or go to that special place on your bucket list only to find that — three weeks in — you’ve lost your enthusiasm?
Some folks swear that exercising with a partner helps them to stay motivated, or that joining a reading group keeps them focused on finishing a novel. So why not try a family resolution this year? This would be a resolution that the entire family signs on to in order to build better bonds, live a healthier lifestyle, or just focus on a group goal, such as raising money for a desired big-ticket item everyone can enjoy.
Stacy Kaiser, a licensed psychotherapist, relationship expert and Live Happy (www.liveh
In general, group activities foster togetherness.
“When we think of activities, we tend to think of hobbies and sports, but resolutions are activities as well and are all about improving ourselves and making our families better.”
Susan Kuczmarski, EdD, a leading expert on the dynamics of family culture and bonding and author of several award-winning books, including the bestselling “Becoming a Happy Family: Pathways to the Family Soul” (Book Ends Publishing), shares, “We did New Year’s resolutions within our family when our three sons were young. I believe you can start early with this exercise, and, when they become teens, they relish this opportunity. It gives them a chance to focus on something that is meaningful and familiar.”
Kuczmarski stresses that spending time with each other should be a priority.
“If family togetherness is nurtured, there is a deep, fulfilling sense of belonging. The family that plays together, stays together. For many time-crunched families, that variation on a familiar saying rings true. In fact, these days, as the hustle and bustle of holidays continues, carve out time to spend together doing activities that everyone enjoys. Make spending time with each other a priority and strengthening family bonds a concentrated focus.”
Kuczmarski advises, “Have each family member do their own list of strengths and needs and share them in order to get input from other family members.”
Knowing what everyone’s individual strengths and needs are helps the family to choose activities for both personal and family growth.
“The trick is to let differences within the family flourish. There must also be room for each child’s unique and personal ideas and contributions,” she says.
Kaiser suggests the following for ways families can stick to resolutions:
• Make goals small and reachable.
• Be sure that all family members are in agreement with the resolution.
• Encourage each other daily. Encouragement provides motivation and serves as another way to bond with one another.
“Family members are ideally set up to remind each other about the resolution,” says Kuczmarski. “This is one benefit of a group situation. Reminders should be gentle, not forceful in any way.”
Make it fun and be sure that everyone is involved. If a resolution is to do one healthy activity together each weekend, take turns choosing the activity.
1. Start a weekly or bi-monthly ritual
Perhaps your family wants to plan a family “date” once per week or twice per month. This could be a family night out, such as bowling, going to a restaurant, or attending a group painting class. Perhaps an occasional tech-free day will work. Instead of everyone’s attention focused on their phones or other tech device, choose to have a family reading night. Have the chosen reader rotate each time. Family members could read from something they’ve written for school, from a journal, or from their favorite book. Then, everyone discusses it.
2. Family conference day
You might consider committing to a family meeting once per week. It keeps communication flowing and is a great way for members to support each other and resolve internal issues as well.
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg, a psychotherapist whose specialties include marital and family issues, and author of “Free Your Child From Overeating: 53 Mind-Body Strategies For Lifelong Health” (The Experiment, LLC), suggests, “Invest in facilitating and improving family communication. My family (our children are ages 17, 14, 11, and 9) has a Sunday evening family meeting where we each share things that went well for us during the week and things and people that also disappointed us. This is a time to share and to work through selective issues with family members.”
3. Reevaluate dinner time
“It’s extremely important to eat meals together,” Maidenberg stresses. “According to research, 59 percent of families report eating dinner together at least five times a week (CASA at Columbia University).”
The positives are endless including, “an increased chance of having healthful meals, more opportunity for dialogue and connection, and, according to research, it decreases the chances that teens will smoke, drink, and use substances.”
Maidenberg advises that families instill mealtime as part of the family culture, set a specific schedule for the meals, and ensure that meals are enjoyable and engaging.
If schedules simply won’t allow for daily family meals, be sure to schedule meals on weekends or rework schedules so that regular weekly meals become a given. Perhaps, a family breakfast would work.
4. Make health a priority
“Integrate ongoing family self-care,” says Maidenberg. “This can be an agreement among family members to include exercising (biking, hiking, etc.), meditation, or yoga as regular family activities.”
She reminds that individual family members need to regenerate, or else they won’t have the energy to give to each other.
• Collect vegetable recipes that everyone would actually like to eat.
• Build an obstacle course together to use throughout the warm months.
• Find indoor activities that facilitate cardio exercise (e.g. indoor rock climbing, roller skating, swimming) to stay active in the winter.
5. Volunteer together
Kuczmarski shares, “Community service is an outlet for families to experience renewal or a sense of restoration.”
Maidenberg agrees that when families volunteer together it creates better bonds.
“When the family engages collectively toward a mission and purpose that is meaningful to the family system, it provides them with something to talk about, bond over, and work toward. Families naturally bond when they feel purposeful and united.”
6. Money matters
“Hold a monthly, family financial discussion night,” suggests Pamela Yellen, a financial investigator and author of two New York Times bestselling books, including “The Bank on Yourself Revolution: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street,” and “Take Control of Your Own Financial Future” (BenBella Books). She recommends focusing on the family budget.
“Even children as young as 4 or 5 can get involved. Create your family’s ‘Personal Spending Rules’ together to work toward family goals. Your children will not only learn good financial skills through this process, but they’ll take pride in being part of it.”
Families can also decide to save for a big-ticket item that the family can enjoy together, such as a trampoline or a special vacation. Plan a garage sale — kids can create a lemonade stand and help with the tagging. This is also a great teaching moment about the importance of saving for something special.
7. Improve your environment
Each family member states something that can be improved about the home environment. Then, decide on one thing to tackle as a family. For instance, the family van may have become a dumping place for toys, newspapers, and candy wrappers. Each week a different family member takes a turn to pick up items left in the car. And the person cleaning gets to keep the change!
Myrna Beth Haskell is an award-winning author, columnist, and feature writer. Her work has appeared in national and international publications (www.myrna
Take turns photographing family events. At the end of each month, have a family scrapbooking day to display the photos creatively.
Draw a map of the U.S. or globe on poster board. Each family member chooses a color to represent themselves. Then they use their individual color to highlight states, cities, or countries visited over the course of the year. This would include school trips, business trips, and family vacations.
Plan a family reunion. You’ve put it off for too long. Just do it! Include the kids in the planning. Take a group photo at the event and have reunion T-shirts designed to document the day.
Family history project. Do an ancestor search as a family. Once you have a family tree completed, make a book (one page per family member) with photos and descriptions of each person.
Start a family vacation journal. Each family member writes down his or her favorite experience from the current year’s trip with a photo to accompany the memory. Leave room for future years.