With the New Year, your thoughts may turn to making resolutions, those things we commit to do to improve ourselves and make the upcoming year better than the last. Have you noticed that most resolutions involve giving up or quitting something, such as stopping smoking, losing weight, or cutting out sweets? Our brains don’t like to “give up” things. Have you also noticed the pressure around resolutions, particularly the pressure around failing to maintain your resolve? The word itself – resolve – connotes feelings of force and suffering. The perceived loss in giving up something, the pressure around failure and the implied force of a resolution all sabotage your success. For greater success, think of the changes you desire as refreshing your life. Here are a few ideas for refreshing your family life. Out with the old and in with the new can be refreshing without the pressure. Consider these four ideas an invitation.
Have monthly family meetings. Family meetings are a great time to connect, tune in to what other family members are doing, synchronize schedules, resolve challenges and support one another. The key to making family meetings work is to choose a regular meeting day and time with your family and then hold it sacred. Do not continuously change the day because “something comes up”. Schedule other activities around your family meeting time. Turn off the phone and television, and do not schedule your family meeting during mealtime.
There are other ingredients for successful family meetings, such as keeping an agenda, having a secretary and leader (children have an opportunity to lead), beginning each meeting with an activity that creates unity, and keeping your meeting minutes in a journal. For details on making your family meetings fun and successful, check out the Whole Hearted Parenting website under “Resources” and “Articles”.
Create a family handshake or greeting. Having your own handshake is a creative and unique way to make saying hello and goodbye fun. It can also be comforting for young children saying goodbye at pre-school and for kids going away for sleep-away camp for the first time. Every family member contributes one movement to the handshake or one word or sound to the greeting. Combine everyone’s contributions, and you have a unique family ritual that you can refresh every year.
Each month, find something that you are doing for your child that he can do for himself and let him. When we do things for our children that they can do for themselves, they miss the opportunity of knowing how capable they are. Feeling capable is one of the components of self-esteem. If you wake your child up every morning and she is capable of getting up on her own, make an adventure out of shopping for her new alarm clock. Let her pick it out and teach her how to operate it. If your child is capable of making his own lunch for school, have him write weekly menus so that he knows in advance what he will be making each day and so the ingredients are on hand. Not only does your child feel capable, but you also have more time for you!
Keep track of your emotional bank accounts with your family members. Stephen Covey spoke of these “trust accounts” in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. You have an emotional bank account with everyone in your life. Starting with a neutral balance, you add deposits and make debits with your interactions. Yelling is a debit. Hugging is a deposit. Begin to regularly notice your balance with the people you love. Teach your children this concept as well. If your account takes a hit because an argument, add a few deposits to be back “in the black.”
Instead of the heaviness of a resolution, I invite you to refresh your family relationships with these four ideas. Happy 2013!