After a hectic holiday season, January 1—the holiest of resolution-making days—can sneak up on us before we’ve had a chance to reflect on what we’d like to see happen in the year ahead.
But there’s still plenty of time to set goals for the months to come. In fact, there’s good reason to take a kinder, gentler approach to resolutions, says Mike Vardy, author of The Front Nine: How to Start the Year You Want Anytime You Want and a father of two from Victoria. He says it’s misguided to come out of such a busy season and then say to yourself, “Now what big, big habit can I start tomorrow?”
Instead, think about using the start of a year to enhance your family life with achievable goals you can set together. “Having the kids be a part of the process makes it all the more rewarding because you’re doing it together,” says Vardy.
His household creates a family vision board each year, a visual expression of the priorities for the months ahead. Even little kids can get in on the fun. One year Vardy’s son wanted to be Puss and Boots for Halloween. “So we downloaded a picture of Puss and Boots and we put it on board. For younger children, you want to make sure that that vision board has value, too, he says.” Find images that represent the weekend road trips you want to take together, the new foods you’re going to try or the sport you’re going to take up together, and add them to your collage. Anything goes, as long as it represents the priorities you’ve agreed upon. “It really gives the whole family something to connect to over a period of time, and it’s something you can all rally around.”
Not sure exactly what you resolutions you’d like to set as a family? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking.
1. Establish tech blackout times.
You don’t want your kids to have their faces in Minecraft or Snapchat all day, and likewise they don’t want to see you scrolling through your email or Twitter feed when you’re at the park. Agree to step away from your devices, or switch them to airplane mode (camera, yes; LinkedIn requests, no), during agreed-upon windows like dinner hour or your weekend walk, suggests Vardy. This helps ensure your time together isn’t diluted by screens, and it may set useful boundaries with your work as well. “I don’t respond to emails after 7 p.m. What happens is a lot of people don’t set any boundaries. If you don’t, than other people will do it for you.”
2. Increase your active transportation.
Most of us want to get more exercise, and we want our kids to be active, too. A great way to do this is to build it into your regular routine of getting places. If school isn’t within walking distance, stop the car earlier and walk the last way, says Christa Costas-Bradstreet, a mom of two and physical activity specialist with Participaction. “Maybe the resolutions is, if we’re gong out on an errand that’s less than 2 km we’re going to find an active way to do it.” Or try a nightly after-dinner walk around the block.
3. Start a new quality-time ritual.
Kids love the predictability and comfort of activities you repeat at certain times of the week, month or year. Case in point: the family we overheard at the butcher recently: Mom stopped next to the convenient rotisserie chickens and said to her kids, “We could just get one of these…” to which her son exclaimed, “But it’s Fajita Friday!” Whether it’s a special menu or a regular board game night, consider starting a new tradition you can all look forward to each week.
4. Create a physical activity jar.
To keep your family outings both active and interesting, have a jar or a bucket at home that holds the physical activity ideas each family member writes on little scraps of paper. Takes turns reaching in and picking one at the same time each week during family time, says Costas-Bradstreet. And be creative in your choices. “We think about the rec centre but we forget about going bowling,” she says. Same goes for making backyard snowball targets or silly indoor obstacle courses.
5. Streamline your mornings.
We know this one is easier said than done, but you’ll all benefit if you work together to make your mornings less chaotic. And that shouldn’t be all on mom to stay up late getting lunches made and backpacks ready. Use the start of the year to establish new accountability with the kids for getting their schoolwork, hats, mitts and library books ready to go. Checklists can help move mornings along. (How often have our kids forgotten what they were doing halfway up the stairs to brush their teeth?) Everything you do as a family to begin your days without quite as much panic will do wonders for reducing your stress level and theirs. And that’s a goal we can all get behind.