5 Parenting resolutions for the new year

The new year is upon us, and while I’m a big believer in reflecting on our choices and actions and how they panned out for us, I’m also a big believer in wiping the slate clean and allowing everyone to start fresh. With that mindset, I’ve put together a list of New Years Resolutions for parents. Yes, you should think about what’s worked in the last year and what’s failed, but then move forward into a new year with a commitment to better parenting. I can’t make any promises, but I’m fairly certain that practicing at least some of these will lead to a more peaceful home and a closer family.

  1. Make sure you save time for yourself. There’s a reason this is my number one item on the list. I’m going to give it to you straight: You can’t be a good parent – no matter how hard you try – if you don’t take care of yourself and attend to your own happiness first. Selfish? Not even a little bit. Strong parents make for strong kids.
  2. Decide as a family that you will all spend less time in front of a screen. I just returned from a family trip on a cruise ship, where we all put away our phones for an entire week. Here’s what we got instead: eye contact, uninterrupted conversations, random musings that come when you’re lying in the sun just thinking, and way more memories than selfies. If you want to communicate with your kids, put down the electronics and start talking.
  3. Commit to speaking more kindly to one another. While everyone gets angry, it shouldn’t be acceptable for members of a family to scream at each other on a regular basis, call each other names, say hurtful phrases like “I hate you!” or use profanity towards one another. Family members who respect each other live much more peacefully together. If you wouldn’t talk to your friends a certain way, you shouldn’t talk to your family members that way.
  4. Reserve dinner time as sacred family time. Sit down each night together and share stories of your day. If you’re religious, pray together. Share the dinner chores as a family so that everyone has a role in preparation or clean up. It may sound all Ozzie & Harriet, but families are closer when they covet each other’s presence.
  5. Laugh more, reduce stress, and increase joy. All relationships, whether friends, spouses, or parents and children, need fun and enjoyment to thrive. There may be plenty of pain in this world, but there’s also a great deal of humor to be found in day-to-day circumstances. Help your kids discover the inner joy that will sustain them through tough times by teaching them to find humor in their everyday lives. And just as importantly, quit stressing. Show your kids that gratitude and acceptance are two of the most freeing attitudes they can embody.

Happy New Year, everyone, and I wish you all the best in your parenting in 2016!

For more ideas about bringing your family closer together in the new year, check out Teenagers 101. 

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Surviving Christmas and its unmet expectations

Shakespeare made one of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard: “Oft expectation fails, and most oft there, where most it promises.” In other words, most of life’s heartaches stem from unmet expectations. Think about it. Now think about it in relation to the holidays.

Was your Thanksgiving all you had hoped it would be, just as you had envisioned it? Will Christmas be the perfect melding of family togetherness, glazed ham, and thoughtful presents? And how will you react when it isn’t?

Because you know, especially if you have children, and most especially if you have teenagers, that things won’t go as smoothly as you hope. Everyone will have their own ideas of what the perfect holiday looks like. Some people won’t like ham. That perfect present won’t be met with glee or even appreciation. And your mother-in-law will annoy you yet again.

I grapple with letting go of lofty expectations every year. We somewhat controlling people often do; after all, we have plans, and they’re fantastic, and everyone should get on board with them. But I have to remind myself that teens and young adults sleep in, stay up late, eat whenever they feel like it, typically don’t enjoy sightseeing, would rather search for online deals than shop, and, generally speaking, have their own ideas of fun.

Therefore, I rely on another quote to get by, this one by Albert Camus: “Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.” In other words, compromise, my friends, will keep you from going insane. In a house full of people, during holidays that depend so heavily on expectation, compromise will save you every time. Compromise looks like this:

  • Encouraging each family member to choose one activity, then following through without complaining
  • Working around sleep schedules (within reason) without expecting everyone to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the early morning
  • Keeping the focus on family time, rather than grand presents and activities
  • Being centered in your faith and remembering why this time of year is special to begin with
  • Staying grounded in your expectations by remembering the treasured family traditions that really matter
  • Letting go of what doesn’t and what no one will remember anyway

Hard as it may be, give up the control. Give up the dream. Instead, enjoy the reality of your family, just as they are. Find joy in their individual quirks and everyone’s inability to be perfect. Perfection is exhausting and a fruitless waste of time. Instead, relax and let the holidays be what they will be.