Family resolutions are tricky because you aren't just focusing on your own behavior. For many years I had dreams of happy family outings that didn't require strategic pre-planning and careful execution to avoid meltdowns. I also hoped for interactions where one person talked at a time (at a reasonable volume). But this year, I'm setting realistic family resolutions.
Family resolutions from a parent's perspective
- Family game night each Sunday: It's easy to look at all the things that aren't working well in your family--homework, too much screen time, inflexibility or meltdowns--and get overwhelmed and frustrated. But don't forget to focus on what is working well--even if it is small or short-lived. For me, playing a board game together, even if it lasts just 10 minutes without argument, feels great.
- Cook together on Saturdays: One of the surest ways to feel bad about your family is to compare it to another family. You know your own (and your family's) flaws, but only see what other families present to you. I used to feel like a failure when other families seemed to easily travel, go out to eat or have large parties. Those activities were stressful for my family when our kids were younger. But my family loved watching movies together, playing board games and making food at home. Once I stopped worrying about what we "should" be doing, I started enjoying time with my family more.
- Start a family book club: I'll be honest, I didn't always love every conversation about topics that captured my sons' interests. I yawned my way through many Pokemon games, slept through Yu-gi-oh television shows, and my eyes blurred with the hundredth reading of any book about trucks. But, my kids loved these topics and we could use them to encourage conversation and interaction with other kids and adults. Since we all love to read, we're starting a family book club with one of our favorite authors, Terry Pratchett.
- Yell at each other less than once each day: Our children aren't purposefully trying to make things harder for us. They work hard each day to manage social, emotional, academic and organizational demands from parents, siblings, peers and teachers and are doing the best they can with the skills they have. They don't always have the extra energy required to respond well to tasks that are either difficult or boring. We can help them through these stressful moments by trying to understand their point of view and being flexible. Once they've regained their composure, we can talk with them about what went wrong and how to respond next time. Rigid kids and rigid adults don't mix.
Family resolutions from my son's perspective