Have you ever stopped to wonder why we make New Year’s resolutions? It turns out that the tradition dates back all the way to the Babylonians, some 4,000 years ago. Of course, they weren’t making resolutions to eat healthier, hit the gym more, or spend less on frivolous coffee drinks. Instead, they were making promises to the Gods in hopes of receiving good fortune in the coming year.
Whether your resolutions include eating fewer carbs or building your rainy day fund, as parents, the New Year presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on your goals as parents. In this article, we offer our tips and suggestions for creating parenting goals for the new year.
What are parenting goals?
Parenting goals are goals that you set either for yourself or your family. This could be a behavior you want to change in yourself, such as practicing being “present” in the moment, or a family goal of spending more time together, cutting down screen time, etc. No matter what you decide your goals will be, remember that:
- Your goals can be flexible and change over time
- Your goals are unique to you and your family
It’s ideal to start small with goals that are realistic and achievable. Make a list of two or three clear goals. Here are some ideas:
Build your parenting support network: Parenting is demanding work. Social connections make a big difference in your resilience as a parent and often provide a much needed fresh perspective. Having friends to talk with, play with, cry and laugh with is an essential part of self-care.
- Parenting groups are a great place to create new friendships with other parents, often parents who have children in the same age range as your child. Some parents from Parenting Now groups have continued meeting for over 30 years after their formal groups have ended. Some are now sharing stories about their grandchildren!
- You may also meet potential new friends when you bring your child to the park, their preschool class, or story time at the library.
- Hang out a bit before or after a storytime or class.
- Sit on a park bench at a similar time each day and see who comes regularly.
- Take opportunities to say hello and strike up a conversation with other parents.
Be a more patient parent: Parenting is one long, hard lesson in patience. Whether it’s your toddler “doing it myself!” or your preteen begging for a smartphone, there is no shortage of moments when your patience will be challenged as a parent—which can sometimes result in a short-fuse. Without proper attention paid to our own needs and feelings, the stress can become overwhelming and we might not always respond to that stress in helpful ways. Here are some healthy ways to boost your patience.
- Practice deep breathing. Take a deep inhale through your nose, pause at the top, before releasing a slow exhale through your mouth. Repeat 3-4 times or more as needed. This small exercise has been shown to reduce blood pressure and calm stress hormones, which can help you become calm more quickly.
- Use a quiet voice when You redirect your child’s behavior.
- Think before acting. This involves taking a pause between your feelings and an action. Feel your feelings and name them. Are you angry, frustrated? Once you can name the feeling, you can tame it. This will help you access the thinking part of your brain. Ask yourself: Could there be any negative consequences to my action or reaction? If so, what are other options?
- Find the humor in the situation.
- Spend some time thinking about what happens in your body when you start to feel upset. Does your heart pound faster or your stomach churn? What helps you notice those feelings, name them, and access calming strategies that work for you?
Spend more time together as a family. Another great goal for your family is to spend more positive, fun time together. Can you ever spend too much time together as a family? Probably not—especially when your kids are school-aged or if you or your partner work full-time. Some ideas to incorporate into your day could include:
- Eat your meals at the table, together. If your mornings are hurried, try to eat dinner together as a family. This simple practice has been shown to increase resilience in you and your children. Think of it as “money in the bank” to fall back on when you experience challenging times as a family.
- Read together before bedtime. Cuddle up and release those bonding hormones in both you and your child.
- Designate screen-free time when the family can do an activity together, such as playing a board game, going for a walk, working on a craft project, or playing a sport.
- Find an activity the whole family can do and enjoy. Even if you have children of different ages, abilities, skill sets, and interests, you can usually find something the whole family can do—going on a nature walk, riding bikes, camping—even mini golf!
Can’t go wrong with a focus on family
The great thing about setting parenting goals is that you can’t really do it wrong. Just the simple act of intending to set parenting goals to improve your skills as a parent, spend more time together with your family, or change the way you interact with your children, shows just how much you love them. Here’s to a great year in 2020!
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).