Mom’s or Dad’s New Year’s resolution might be to lose weight, quit smoking or give more to charity. But for children asking to make resolutions, what can they do in 2019 to better themselves? And, should kids even bother making a New Year’s resolution in the first place?
The answer is yes!
“Making New Year’s resolutions allows kids to practice goal-setting, decision-making and even thinking about what matters to them and what they value,” said Dr. Harpreet Kaur, a pediatric psychologist at Children’s Hospital Orange County.
Making New Year’s resolutions is also an activity families can do together, she said, and a good opportunity for parents to model goal-setting and following through with a goal.
“If a child sees you are doing it, this may motivate them to participate, too,” she said.
“Make sure the goal is relevant and important to the child,” Dr. Kaur said, with an emphasis on the goal’s importance to the child, not the parent. If the resolution isn’t important or relevant to the child, they won’t be motivated to keep it, she said.
“Resolutions should be child-driven; that’s how you get buy-in,” she said. “Make sure it’s realistic and specific and that the child knows exactly what he or she needs to be doing.”
So, if your teen’s resolution is to be more athletic or join a sports team, what does he have to do to achieve this? The child can go to the gym three times a week for a half hour for a month and then re-evaluate that goal. If the resolution is to do better in science at school, the teen could pledge to do some science reading or science homework once a week for a half hour until his grade in the class reaches a desired level.
The parents’ level of involvement depends on the child’s age and developmental level. Adolescents want more independence, so parents can help them select resolutions, but the adolescent should be responsible for following through with them, Dr. Kaur said. Parents should help younger kids set a realistic goal, help them follow through with it and keep them motivated using positive reinforcement.
Once the kids have made a sound New Year’s resolution and the expectations are set, family members can help with reminders and strategies for implementation. Dr. Kaur suggested setting a check-in period to evaluate goals over the year and modify them if needed.
Here are five New Year’s resolutions for kids and ways parents can help:
— Be more organized with schoolwork >> Encourage kids to keep their desk organized. Provide them with a scheduling planner or calendar and help them use it daily to track assignments.
— Improve academic habits >> Provide a kid-friendly homework space and allow the child to decorate it. Establish a homework routine so assignments get done. Encourage the kids to seek extra help from teachers if necessary.
— Cut down on junk food and soda >> Cut out the daily after-school Starbucks runs and caffeinated or sugary drinks. Encourage kids to seek balance with meals and snacks. Serve yogurt and fruit or a smoothie instead of cookies. Offer water and low-fat or non-fat milk and no soda. If your children love Starbucks, take them once a month as a special treat, Dr. Kaur suggested. “This also makes them appreciate it more,” Kaur said.
—Read more >> Encourage more reading and less time spent on electronics and watching television. Establish an after-dinner reading time and start small, like 15 minutes. Visit the bookstore or browse an online bookstore to shop for the child’s favorite authors and books. Let the kids pick the subject matter or content or let them order a magazine they are interested in.
— Get regular exercise >> Join your child on a neighborhood walk or bike ride, or take the kids to the park to play after school. “These can be short activities or family activities too,” Kaur said. “Give them choices about what they want to do.”
Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, Scholastic; Dr. Harpreet Kau
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