The end of the year is a great time to reflect on how one’s family is doing. “While we typically associate this as an individual task, this is an equally valuable and rich process for families — it’s like taking the family’s temperature,” says Cindy Smolkin, a Parent and Child Therapist at Connected Parenting, an organization that offers parenting courses and workshops to schools and organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada. “Sitting down as a family and noting individual accomplishments, contributions, even someone’s good humor or helpfulness, validates each member’s importance and value,” says Smolkin. A family resolution is the next step. But, sticking to a New Year's resolution is hard enough when it’s a solo event, so what about when it includes the whole crew? Here, Smolkin shares her tips on reaching success.
Undertake one resolution at a time.
Keep everyone focused on one simple goal. “Consider something reasonable, doable and meaningful to all members of the family," says Smolkin. And keep them small. “If it’s too big or difficult to follow through on, then enthusiasm will dwindle quickly.” Resolutions work best when you concentrate on a positive message, like doing one act of kindness a day, rather than what the family shouldn’t do, such as don’t be mean to your siblings.
Buy-in from all family members.
Get every family member's input and suggestions for a family resolution. Smolkin says that allowing everyone to be a part of the process not only ensures that everyone’s voices are heard but reinforces important skills such as communication and compromise. Parents are essentially the captains of their ship so it’s up to Mom and Dad to remain consistent, committed and enthusiastic. The crew will follow their lead.
Keep communication open.
If during your family’s goal to eat more colorful foods, someone loses interest or starts vocalizing their dislike of red peppers, then it’s time to reopen the doors of communication and find out why. Smolkin emphasizes that resolutions need to be flexible. “While a resolution can maintain at its core a theme such as ‘screen-free time’, the method to get there can be ever-changing.” Getting the whole family's input shows that you respect their opinions and helps build trust, no matter what their age.
Concentrate on success.
After hearing from each family member what resolutions they’d like to tackle, it’s not necessary to choose one immediately. Take the top 2 and have everyone do a bit of research on what they’d like to bring to the resolution. For example if the goal is to eat healthier, ask Junior what dishes he’s interested in eating and add that to the meal plan. Keep it fun. Afterwards you can even have everyone rate each meal, so, if that cauliflower mac n’ cheese wasn’t a hit, they can provide suggestions on how they’d make it yummier. Creating common goals can help families bond and challenge each other.
Skip any punishment.
If a family member chooses not to participate, respect their decision and continue as normal. The purpose of a family resolution is one that is achievable, enjoyable and fun. Someone who decides to skip this experience will be missing out on a sense of harmony and togetherness. While it’s likely they may express a don’t-care attitude, there is a good chance that they’ll be drawn in when they see others enjoying themselves. And this is a far better outcome than a punishment.