The beginning of a new year provides an ideal time to reflect on the past year and plan for the future. Setting New Year’s resolutions—both individual and family resolutions—creates an opportunity for the entire family to come together with a common purpose. In a world that tends to pull us apart, setting goals to fortify our families is more important than ever. Goal setting can strengthen family unity and bonds as each member plays an important role in planning for and achieving success. By setting goals and developing an action plan, parents and children alike have a shared sense of responsibility and a vested interest in accomplishing the task at hand.
Each year, 45% of people set New Year’s resolutions, yet only 8% of people actually follow through with them. So what’s missing? The word resolution means a firm determination, tenacity, perseverance, and a course of action. Therefore, when setting New Year’s resolutions as a family, it is important to create a list of goals based on what the family values so each member remains committed to achieving those goals. Another way to frame goals is by asking, why is this goal important and what value does it hold for the family? For example, a family goal may be to eat dinner together three nights per week. However, when asking why this is important and what value it holds for the family, you may realize that the primary purpose is to spend quality time together. Thus, the goal may be changed to spending quality time together as a family and sharing highlights of the day over dinner. When life gets hectic and busy, it is easier to stay dedicated to the heart of the goal, which is really staying connected as a family, not just sitting down for dinner at the same time.
Goal setting should be a family affair where children are involved and their opinion counts. Each family member can create a list of the five things they value the most, creating two personal goals and three family goals. After each person comes up with their list, the family can come together and discuss their ideas for family goals and pick the top three to work towards in the New Year. When finalizing individual and family goals, put an action plan in place and ensure the goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound).
S: Who, what, where, why?
M: How much? How often?
A: Is the goal reasonable? Can the goal be accomplished?
R: Does it seem worthwhile? Is this the right time? Does this match the family values/needs?
Once the specifics are outlined, put the goals in writing, have each member of the family sign the list, and keep the goals posted in a visible location. Revisit your goals often and adjust the action plan as necessary. At the end of the year, review previous goals, what went right, what worked, what didn’t work. Use successes and misses as a learning tool for the next year. Most importantly, have fun with New Year’s resolutions and celebrate your accomplishments, big and small!
Dr. Stephen Fife is an Associate Professor in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at UNLV. Christel Vincent is a former graduate student in the MFT Program. E-mail Dr. Fife at firstname.lastname@example.org.