Make Your New Year’s Resolutions a Family Affair

Families who make goals together keep goals together.

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It’s that time of year again, when many of us make New Year’s resolutions that we have the best intentions of keeping. But despite our initial efforts, we often don’t follow through. A lot of us fail because we either make unrealistic goals or we lack a support system that will help keep us honest.

If you want to keep this year’s resolutions, make a realistic goal. Your goal should be specific, measurable, and doable within a reasonable period of time. Being supported and held accountable by others will further help you reach your goal, so consider making resolutions as a family.

Families Who Make Goals Together Keep Goals Together

While making a family resolution may seem as sensible as herding cats, it’s worth the effort. But setting family resolutions will only work if each member of the family feels invested. And for everyone to feel invested, shared goals need to be recognized and treated equally within the family. If everyone feels they have a stake, then you have created the foundation for achieving your shared goals.

Making goals as a family has a distinct advantage over making a personal goal as an individual. For example, if you go running every day with a friend, you’re more likely to continue making progress because you will feel supported. Making goals public to your family and working together to achieve them provides the outside encouragement we all need to keep resolutions.

Alone You Will Struggle; Together You Will Thrive

Many of our routines are built around work and family, but your autonomy and ability to make personal changes to your life can be undermined by your greater responsibilities. So if you want to exercise more or eat healthier, you are more likely to do so if your other family members exercise with you and eat the same things you do.

But if you are the only one in your family that is actively working towards a goal, constantly removing yourself from your other family members’ habits (e.g. eating a salad during family pizza night) will eventually erode your desire to keep your resolutions. You might stick with eating salads for a while, but that pepperoni pizza will be more tempting when everyone else is enjoying it but you.

You shouldn’t force your family to do what you’re doing, especially if they don’t want or need to, but you can easily find ways for you and your family to work together and achieve a common goal.

8 Resolutions That Are Easier Kept as a Family

Some habits are truly personal and require individual accountability, but many common resolutions can be adopted by the entire family with a little planning and coordination. Maybe you’re the only one who needs to lose weight or create a better diet, but there are other ways to encourage your whole family to work together.

1. Go to Bed at the Same Time

Getting enough sleep is important for every age group, children and adults alike. But for some families, bedtimes are considered a guideline and not a rule, and if they are a rule, they only apply to young children.

This year, make a mandatory lights-out time for everyone, yourself included. You may need to collect and shut down electronic devices from kids to ensure everyone in the family goes to bed at the same time.

2. Unplug Devices

A great way to help everyone decompress from a stressful day and wind down toward bedtime is to create “unplugged” time, or time where electronic devices are shut off and everyone can read or relax in a way that doesn’t include electronics. Most sleep experts recommend unplugging from electronics an hour or so before bed.

3. Eat Meals Together

The best way to cultivate better eating habits and to introduce new or healthier foods to your diet is to eat together. If possible, you should eat breakfast and dinner together with your partner and children. Not only will you get to enjoy good food (especially if you cook together), but this is also a great way to create time for daily connection as a family.

4. Create Reading Time

If your resolution is to read more often, make it a family routine to go to the library once a week. Saturday is a great day to visit the library for most families. Once everyone has books they want to read, create “electronics-free” spaces in your home and designate a time when everyone will read.

You can even take it a step further: during meals or other times when your family is together, discuss what you’re reading and share what you’ve learned.

5. Exercise as a Family

Everyone can enjoy the health benefits of exercise, which are almost endless. In addition to the obvious physical benefits, exercising also helps to lower stress and lift your mood. While bringing everyone to the gym may not be realistic for your family, going for walks together, playing catch, shooting hoops, or joining amateur sports teams or clubs can make it easier to cultivate appreciation for exercise in your family.

You can even coach your kids’ sports teams as a way to be present and involved in their physical activities, and even if you can’t, you can still go to their games and offer support by cheering them on.

6. Work Toward a Financial Goal

As parents, you may feel it is inappropriate to talk about your finances with your children, especially if you have outstanding debt. But if you wish to help your children make good decisions about money, like smart spending habits and how to save, being open about family finances and creating financial goals as a family are surprisingly good ways to help prepare your children for adulthood.

7. Switch Out the Soda

Your family doctor will thank you, and so will your wallet, if you stop stocking your home with your soda of choice. If you like carbonated drinks and the idea of going cold turkey seems unthinkable, try switching out your favorite soda with flavored carbonated water instead. Not only will this prevent weight gain and overconsumption of sugar, but it will teach your kids to make healthier choices as well.

8. Go Meatless One Day a Week

Reduce your meat consumption and eat more vegetables by cooking meatless meals one day a week. Eating less red meat is good for your health and wallet, and eating less meat overall is good for the environment. The sooner you can do this, the better. Children who try different kinds of foods at a young age tend to be less picky and to expand their palates, and by maintaining healthy eating habits, eating vegetarian may become your family’s favorite way of eating.

To make this year the year you actually follow through with your goals, make it a family affair. This way, everyone wins. You can share the sense of accomplishment together, which not only helps in achieving your shared goals, but can bring you closer together as a family.

The Marriage Minute is a new email newsletter from The Gottman Institute that will improve your marriage in 60 seconds or less. Over 40 years of research with thousands of couples has proven a simple fact: small things often can create big changes over time. Got a minute? Sign up below.

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The four most important things in my life are my coffee, my cat, my dog and my kid—sometimes in that order. I’m a Nashville transplant living in Salt Lake City. I write about everything from innovative tech to personal and family wellness. Follow me on Twitter @kladown23.

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