Today is the day! We’ve reached the end of 2013. Next year spreads out like a lovely blank canvas waiting for us to fill it up. What is it about the New Year that inspires us to set resolutions, promise change, and revolutionize our lives? What is it about our lives that makes most of us drop those by February? I propose that it is not our will power or surroundings – but the actual resolutions.

I talked this over with my daughter a few days ago. Last year she resolved to eat five different colored fruits and veggies EVERY day. But, the first day she forgot … or ran out of time … or just didn’t want to, she’d failed. I absolutely loved her idea of eating healthy, but her method worked against her. And me to be honest, because which mom has FIVE colors of fruits and veggies on hand every day? We needed to think through our efforts and support the change we most want. So I thought about these questions to discuss as a family headed into 2014.

Which parts of last year stick out as the best? The worst? The most boring?

Just asking your kids this question models such an important skill. Self-reflection can be difficult to learn. As they look back at the year, they see the big picture of the good, the bad, and the effect of their own actions. Through your guidance, they can also learn how to build from those lessons rather than repeat the same pattern. Talk together about your highlights and those things your kids would rather not experience again. And don’t stop there! If your conversation flows, ask them to think about what parts of your days, weeks, seasons, could be made easier or more enjoyable. Or brainstorm ideas for breaking out of your normal pattern. Fuel your conversation with anything that encourages their imagination for the possibilities.

What goals should we set to make next year even better?

Now that all of these possibilities swim around you, figure out together which ones are the most important and set four or five of them as goals. Yes, goals, not resolutions. Although it’s just a word, resolution sounds like an all or nothing kind of thing, like my daughter’s fruits and veggies. A goal, instead, implies something you work toward, some days more than others. They should be specific, tangible, and measurable. “Be happier” would be a very difficult goal to accomplish because no one knows exactly what that looks like for each person. Kids especially need tangible progress to avoid discouragement. But don’t we all?

How can we do that?

At this point you’ve got meaningful changes you’d like to make as a family, but how exactly how are going to do it? Outline steps that you can take to gradually approach your goal. Paint a picture of what that looks like in a day, a month, in June, and so on. This could be as simple as screwing in a hook for each kid by the door and working towards making it a habit to hang their school stuff there by March. Or I could have planned a weekly menu that included a different color fruit or veggie for each day or week. The world is full of resources to support you, whether a website, a person, or a check-list.

Is this actually possible?

When you’ve settled on a plan of action, reflect a bit on your lives. Are the steps you’ve planned realistic? We all get carried away in the excitement of something new, but will this plan hold up under the pressures of homework, laundry, PMS, bills? Let’s be honest, my life could hang in the balance and there is still no way I could consistently wake up at five!

Don’t get me wrong, I know there’s a very good chance that the time your young kids can stay focused on this will be less than the time it takes you to read this! You can tailor this kind of conversation to fit your family’s needs and schedule. But, whatever the method, I encourage you to take time for reflection and then use that to navigate this next year with practical steps for improvement as a family unit.

Happy 2014! May it be a gift for you and yours!