The end of an old year and the start of a new one is a time when we like to set goals, change bad habits and make resolutions for self-improvement. Here are five suggestions your family could try for the New Year.
1. Have more family dinners
Eating dinner as a family gives you time together to talk about your days and unwind and relax before any evening activities. Studies have shown that there are many benefits to preparing and eating meals as a family. There should be at least one time during the day when the whole family sits together to bond and reconnect with each other.
2. Stay active
It is a cliché at this point: people make a resolution to exercise and get fit for the New Year only to find themselves back in front of the TV by late January. Instead of making hard-to-reach goals, try making small changes to your everyday life that add physical activity to your regular routine. Research shows that when you start off with small and achievable goals, you are much more likely to follow through.
When trying to get your children active, parent and family behavior can have a very strong influence. The more active you are yourself, the more likely it is that your children will be active too. Incorporating sports or other playful activities into your child’s life will help to ensure that physical activity is seen as fun instead of work.
Where possible, encourage children to go outside and explore. Not only will this keep them active, but it will also give them an appreciation for nature.
3. Reduce screen time
As our lives become more dependent on technology, being mindful of screen time is increasingly important. “Screen time” is any time spent in front of a device such as a smart phone, computer, television or game console.
On top of promoting sedentary behavior, increased screen time can also decrease attachment to both parents and peers. Recent studies have also shown that high levels of screen-time are linked to increased psychological distress in children.
While the draw of TV and video games can be strong, encourage children to participate in activities like drawing, reading, or playing a board game. These activities help to build creativity and can be done alone or as a family.
4. Better family communication
Research shows that positive and open family communication starting at a young age can have major benefits in the long-run. Teenagers who communicate well with their parents are less likely to rebel and will also have stronger conflict resolution skills well into adulthood.
Along with regular meals together as a family, regular family leisure time can also lead to better communication. Recreational family time spent taking a walk to the park, playing a game of cards or just sitting on the back porch looking at the stars can offer a casual setting for families to talk to one another. It also increases feelings of attachment. Shared leisure time can also help families to build problem-solving skills and to better adapt to family change over time.
Adding an aspect of ritual or tradition to family activities can also increase the feeling of bonding in family members.
5. Less structure
In today’s busy world, it is easy to fall into the trap of over-scheduling. However, more and more studies are showing that between school and mealtimes, piano lessons and homework, it is important for children to have time to themselves for unstructured play.
During this time, children might play hide-and-seek, build a fort out of sticks or simply lay in the grass and look at the clouds. Allowing children unstructured time to entertain themselves helps them to develop independence, social skills, creativity and imagination. Unstructured play time also gives children a break from responsibilities so they have time to relax.
Wishing you and your family a successful and prosperous 2019!