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When it comes to our kids, New Year’s resolution setting is a great opportunity to model our experiences with family goals by practicing these important skills together. Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph.D., ABPP-CN, co-director for the Center for Behavioral Health at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, provides some effective tips to help parents make resolutions with their children.

For kids, it is a great idea to think about New Year’s resolutions in a few ways:

  • Behaviors you want to become habits
  • New opportunities for teamwork as a family
  • A fun opportunity to see what your child wants do with the new year

Should parents encourage New Year’s resolutions as a family or as an individual?

Both! The key is making sure these are achievable resolutions, everyone is excited about it and there is some level of independence in choosing the resolution(s). Keep resolutions positive – things we should be doing, not things to avoid.

What are the components of resolutions?

Follow the SMART acronym – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. By making resolutions that likely are not achievable, we will not feel the positive reward of success, and in turn, won’t achieve the goal or will avoid it because of this lack of success. This can lead to future avoidance of similar resolutions.

How do we hold ourselves accountable?

Checking in and recognizing what the barriers are to achieving our resolutions is key. Ask ourselves: “What is getting in our way? Did we let this go for a bit and maybe it’s time to ‘get back on the horse?’” Forgive ourselves for letting it go for a bit, but recovering smoothly teaches our kids good problem-solving strategies, too. This is a great opportunity to revise our thinking and find new ways to experience success, which may include adjusting our resolution.

What are some great New Year’s resolutions for kids?

  • Perform one random act of kindness per day.
  • Thank someone every day for going out of their way.
  • Volunteer as a family, choose a group/charity to support, every month or on a feasible timeline.
  • Learn a new word every day.
  • Learn a new language and only speak that language at home one day per week, or one meal per week, etc.
  • Start a family activity together (game night, craft, etc.).
  • Reframe a negative thought every day.
  • Reduce time on electronics, video games, social media, etc.
  • Use less plastic, be more eco-friendly.

What are some fun ways to track resolutions?

Write down the resolution and post it in a place that is seen every day, like on the mirror in the bathroom. We can also use jars to keep track of how many times we complete our resolutions by putting a bead or stone in the jar. Try a family competition of how many days in a row you can stay true to your resolution – when you miss a day, start again, and whoever has the longest streak each month, wins!

For more information on pediatric healthcare and mental health, visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Newsroom.

About the Author: Dr. Katzenstein is the director of psychology and neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Previously, Dr. Katzenstein was a private practitioner and Assistant Professor of Neurology at Indiana University School of Medicine/Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis where she provided neuropsychological evaluations, consultations and academic coaching for children and adolescents. After graduating from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, she completed a pediatric internship and fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Katzenstein is board certified in pediatric neuropsychology and clinical neuropsychology.


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