It’s a new year, which means more gym time, financial assessments and home improvements - all great starts to the New Year. As you set your New Year resolutions, don’t forget to include parenting resolutions to become the parent you’ve always wanted to be, bringing peace and joy into your home and impacting your family for years to come. I have prepared five resolutions parents can easily adapt to help reconnect with their children and significant other for a closer connection and enhanced family unity. It's not necessary to incorporate them all at once. Instead, begin slowly by adding one or two each month to fit your family’s needs.
1. Spend 10-15 minutes of one-on-one undivided attention with each child per day. You may think you’re with your kids when you’re doing laundry, dishes, or talking on the phone, but that time isn’t intentional. Leave a lasting impact by creating an atmosphere free of distractions: turn off your phone, talk with your children one-on-one, and listen to them intently. This time offers your child an opportunity to be in control and focus on their interests whether playing dress up or going for a walk. Schedule time and abandon your phone.
2. Do not negotiate bedtime. Kids need sleep. In fact, mental health and academic success decline in children who do not receive adequate sleep. Parents who allow their children to stay up past bedtime put them at risk for behavior and social problems. Just like adults, anxiety and depression increases in sleep deprived children. Set a bedtime and enforce it each night.
3. Talk less, model positive behavior more. Throw out the "Do as I say, not as I do" lingo with your kids. When parents use respectful, polite responses when speaking to their children, the children use the same responses. Do you yell at your children when they raise their voices with each other? Do you constantly tell them to pick up their toys yet leave your home office messy and chaotic? Your children hear and watch everything you do; therefore, it’s important to practice what you preach to instill positive behaviors.
4. Give chores to each child. Children of all ages thrive when they feel needed and helpful, and chores build confidence and family unity. You don’t need to pay your children for helping when the whole family has a job to do. Parents who treat children as guests rather than family members alienate their children and stunt their ability to feel connected and useful. Assign age appropriate chores and give each child something they are responsible for completing.
5. Schedule family meetings. Weekly or bi-monthly family meetings help the family come together over pizza or fun foods to brainstorm ideas for organization, family events, travel, and problem solving. Everyone should get a vote and talk openly about what they have observed or felt. This should be a family-only time free from phones or other distractions. When parents plan these meetings with intention, children learn family is a priority, helping them feel secure and connected.
When you think of your blessings of the past year, family usually lands at the top of the list so don’t forget to make resolutions that will improve your family. When parents take responsibility for changing old behavior patterns to create better habits, they improve the lives of their children and loved ones and enhance their marriage.