Setting Children’s New Year’s Resolutions

A local psychologist weighs in on children's New Year's resolutions – including how to pick a resolution, setting a timeline and more.

As the New Year approaches, we’re reminded of the resolutions that come with it. Some of us try our hardest each year to stay on track with the goals we’ve set for ourselves and stay true to the “new year, new me” mantra. But what about our children? Have you tried to set resolutions or goals with your little ones? Here are a few steps to help you along the way.

The importance of setting goals

Even at a young age, teaching children the importance of setting goals or using the New Year to set a resolution can help your child establish a standard for the year ahead. Children as young as age five can join in on the New Year’s resolution fun.

“Goals, or resolutions, are such an important life skill,” says Dr. Amy Trabitz, a clinical psychologist in Dearborn. “Consistency and regularity (is) key when setting goals.”

How to pick a resolution

Trabitz also believes that kids need to have buy-in when setting resolutions and become invested in working toward the goal. Make sure the resolution is obtainable for your child while ensuring it’s something you think she will stick with and is interested in. If this is her first year setting a resolution, suggest one or two things she could use, but encourage her to come up with one on her own.

Ask your child, “Are you ready to set your New Year’s resolution?” If the answer is “yes,” guide her towards one that is also age-appropriate. For children that are a younger age, a suggested resolution could be learning how to tie their shoes with no help from mom or dad or assisting with making their lunch for school a few times a week. For kids who are a little bit older, independent goals might be more suitable.

You could also let your children set one resolution for them and one that you could do together, like making a meal once a month, building a 1000-piece puzzle, or being active as family at least once a week.

Something to keep in mind is that resolutions can be ways to help your child improve a skill she already has.

Setting a timeline

Depending on what type of resolution is set will determine what kind of timeline your child can work with. For example, if the goal is to read one new book a month, help keep your child on track by having a weekly check-in. Ask open-ended questions that don’t require a direct “yes” or “no” answer, but one that demands an explanation.

“What’s the name of the new book you started reading,” or “What chapter are you on?” are great ways to hold them accountable for the goal they set for themselves. If they’re behind on a resolution that has a time constraint attached to it, help them rework it so it’s still attainable for the year.

How parents can help

Now that you have the resolution and the timeline down, how can you help as a parent? Melissa McLaughlin, an eighth grade Spanish teacher at Strong Middle School in Melvindale, makes it a point to set goals with her students at the end of each year and has a few pointers for parents.

“Have your kids write them down. Seeing them in print makes it easy to focus on,” she says. “Create a checklist of the goals and check them off as you achieve them. Seeing goals accomplished makes you feel proud of yourself!”

Track what your child is working towards together. For younger children, make a special calendar or chart and use something fun like stickers to see what was (or wasn’t) accomplished. For older children, purchase a personal planner so they can track their progress.

If failure occurs

If your child did not meet her goal or achieve her New Year’s resolution, it’s OK! Teaching children the importance of failure is just as significant as teaching them the importance of success.

“An important message for children is that just because what you wanted to happen didn’t, doesn’t mean there isn’t some benefit or something you can learn from the experience,” Trabitz says. “Trying harder or trying differently leads to a more positive attitude and ultimately to more successful outcomes.”

Staying involved and keeping open communication will help them achieve what they set out to do. Encourage your children and let them know that the best thing to do if a goal is not met is to never give up!

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