Today's guest blogger is Keith Herzog, MD, attending physician at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.
How did 2016 treat you and your family? It was a great year for my family, but I know that 2017 will be even better as I take the time to reflect, reset and create resolutions that are obtainable and improve my family's overall well-being.
The New Year is not only a great time to invite positive change, but it is also the perfect time to introduce new family habits and teach your children the process of setting goals and working toward achieving them. Goals allow children to channel their energy toward an achievement, and give children purpose and direction. Preschool-age children and up can take part in making New Year's resolutions, and it's always good for children to start early. This 2017, sit down with your family to create resolutions that you can work together to achieve, and then utilize your family as a support system to stick to them throughout the year.
Before you set your goals for the New Year, remember to aim high, but not too high. While goals should be ambitious, it is important to remember they should be realistic for you and your family to help improve your lives. Most children will rise to meet expectations if you dream big. However, setting completely unrealistic goals will likely result in discouragement. While discussing goals, ask: is this goal reasonable, and is it attainable? If the goal is very big, breaking it down into smaller steps may help make it more manageable. For example, this year, I know I can achieve something a bit closer to my ideal body weight and improve my dental health, so I'm going to make a small, attainable step to get myself there by decreasing my intake of snacks and sweets. This is something simple I keep in mind during my everyday life to help me achieve my goal.
While developing your goals, consider smaller, more manageable goals that can improve your overall family well-being. Aside from more popular goals such as healthier eating, families should also consider: scheduling check-ups and getting vaccinations up-to-date; being more active by engaging in outdoor family activities; focusing on getting more sleep; spending more time together; or focusing on learning by reading.
Once you and your family have set your resolutions and goals, the hardest part will be maintaining them. To help stay on track, remember the following:
Positive reinforcement is the best way for parents to help children stick to their goals. By encouraging children that they can accomplish the goal they set for themselves, parents can help their child build self-esteem and stay on track. One way to do this is to offer a healthy reward for meeting a goal or benchmark, such as their favorite fruit smoothie or choosing a family activity to do together.
Lead by example.
As with the many habits, children learn by example. Though parents may have very different resolutions for themselves, sharing in the process of setting a goal and making strides to achieve it, will help your children learn how to be accountable. The whole family should take part in setting and sticking to their goals to help make it a team effort. My children are very helpful with holding me responsible – every evening after dinner they declare, "No dessert for Dad!"
Track your child's progress on his or her goal with them throughout the year. Encourage children to mark when he or she reaches a benchmark on a calendar or timeline, this will create a visual so they can see how far they've come, and how much closer they are to achieving their goal.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has some excellent recommendations to help families develop New Year's resolutions if you need suggestions. Cheers to 2017 being the best year for you and your family yet!