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Parenting and the New Year’s Non-Resolution

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December 12, 2017

With the turn of the seasons, you’ve probably been inundated with commercials, articles, and conversations about New Year’s resolutions. These make me simultaneously excited and irritated. Visions of a well-toned me strolling a beach in the south of France while fluently conversely with a local have me resolving to go to the gym seven days a week, book a flight to Europe, and learn French. But when the vision clears, my bank account, children, and planner all have something to say about this fantasy.

That’s when the irritation kicks in. Why do we set such outrageous expectations for ourselves, and then feel like failures when it turns out we are not Wonder Women? And how can we help our kids set goals without setting them up for the same sense of failure and disappointment?

Keep it Practical

Going to Europe with my family is one of my long-term goals, but it doesn’t make sense to set that as a resolution for 2018. Instead, we’ve decided to focus on other more immediate priorities.

That doesn’t exclude the big dreams from the conversation. You may not go to Europe this year, for example, but there are still practical ways to pursue this goal. Talk about what you can do in 2018 to pay for a trip in the future. You could open a Europe account and save $50 a month, for example. Brainstorm ways your kids could pitch in, too, by organizing garage sales or babysitting. Get some travel books so you can decide which countries you want to visit, some maps to plot your trip, and some phrase books to practice different languages.

Keep it Flexible

I used to imagine a calendar when I thought of resolutions. You have to check off every day that you did or didn’t stick to that diet, go to the gym, or whatever you had resolved to do. Once you miss a day, you can’t get it back. This is discouraging for adults and kids alike.

These days, I prefer the visual of a thermometer. It can go up and down but eventually, if you keep applying heat, it’s going to get you to where you want to go. If you miss a day or week or month of your goal, that’s okay. It’s still there waiting for you to warm up!

Keep it Evolving

As a family, we don’t arrange formal times to talk about our goals but we periodically check-in about how we’re doing, what we could do differently, and whether our resolutions need some adjusting.  The end of the year is a natural time for reflection, and these conversations are my favorite because I get to observe kids’ growth as they talk about what they’ve done over the past year, and make plans for the future. I like to think that these discussions will help them plan well and stay inspired, even when the things they are aiming for seem far away.

The resolution mindset is hard to escape. Even as I write this, I catch myself feeling like a failure because I didn’t achieve as much this year as I’d hoped to. But I will encourage you as I encourage myself. Like a thermometer, your goals are always there, just waiting for you to turn up the heat!

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