Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? We often associate New Year’s resolutions with making plans to lose weight, improve time management skills, or break a bad habit. This year I recommend you make New Year’s resolutions for your family. Reflecting on the past year and thinking about the year to come can be a great way to begin 2019. And even better when you get three generations involved — grandparents, adult children and grandchildren.
For the past two decades my husband and I had a tradition of reviewing the year on New Year’s Eve. We got out our calendars for the past year and reminisced about how we spent our days. Then we set goals for the coming year, both individually and as a couple.
I’ve always cherished this tradition and know it’s going to be hard this year without my husband who passed away on September 17, 2018. I wanted to try something new this year and proposed continuing the tradition with my daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters, aged 15 and 11. I suggested we all sit down together and share some of our memories of the past year and make resolutions or goals for the New Year.
Why Make Family Resolutions?
Your family is the most important part of your life and deserves your full conscious attention. By giving time and attention to improve your family, you gain a calmer household, closer relationships, and greater satisfaction with the family and yourselves. By making this conscious effort, you also communicate a special kind of love to your family members.
By making it inter-generational, you as a grandparent can gain insight into your children’s and grandchildren’s goals and dreams for the New Year. It’s also an opportunity to find new ways to be more involved with your children and grandchildren’s lives.
One constant principle governing the family is that the family is always going through change. Kids get older and enter new stages of development. Parents switch jobs. Children change classes, activities and friends.
Resolutions can be a yearly inventory of your family and help identify where your family can improve by thinking about:
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Short and long-term goals
- New vs. completed family challenges
- Developmental stages and needs of each family member
How to Create Family Resolutions
Start by answering these questions in a group discussion.
- What moments stand out as memorable both good and challenging?
- What did you learn from them?
- What was the hardest thing that happened this year?
- Who were your most valuable relationships with?
- What was your biggest personal change this past year?
- What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
- What was the best way you used your time this past year?
- What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
Give each family member a copy of these five questions and ask them to write down their answers below the questions.
- How do you hope 2019 will be like 2018?
- How do you hope 2019 will be different?
- What habit would you like to change or develop?
- What is something you would like help with?
- What are two things you’d like to accomplish in 2019?
After you’ve all written your answers, go around the circle and ask each family member to answer the first question. Then continue with the next questions. After all the questions have been answered by the group, decide if there is a common theme to all the answers. From that common theme decide on one or two family resolutions you can make together.
Remember, in order for resolutions to be achieved, they must be:
- measurable — We will have a family meeting once a month, not we’ll have more family meetings.
- specific — We’ll take an inter-generational family vacation to Hawaii, not we’ll take a vacation together.
- realistic — We’ll only eat fast food one night a week on Fridays, not we’ll eat less fast food.
- written — Write down your answers and keep them posted in a place where you’ll see them everyday.
- reviewed — Plan to sit down as a group on a regular basis, for example, on the last day of the month and discuss your progress.
Be prepared for setbacks but don’t give up. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explains that people who initially fail at maintaining a new habit go on to eventual success with their new habit when they use the failure opportunity to ADJUST their technique in carrying out their new resolution.
My Family’s Resolutions
On Christmas day during a lull in the activities, I asked my daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters if they’d be willing to talk about New Year’s Resolutions. My 11-year old granddaughter was so excited she said: “I’ve always wanted to write New Year’s Resolutions” and everyone was on board. We sat in a circle in the living room and I gave each person a list of the five questions for making resolutions.
We each wrote down our answers and when everyone had finished, each person read their answer to the first question and then the others. When we finished answering all of the questions, we could see some common themes emerge.
- We wanted to schedule more time to relax with unscheduled activities
- We wanted to take family walks and bike rides
- We wanted to take another family vacation this summer
- We wanted to have more family conversations about communicating with each other
I was pleased with how easily the process flowed. We had a memorable conversation about how our family can continue to grow and support each other when challenges arise and create more fun for the whole family.
I encourage you to sit down with your family and make some New Year’s Resolutions together. Great families don’t just happen by accident. They develop through conscious intention in an environment that encourages open communication.