New Year, New Changes
At the start of the new year, many people set goals or make “resolutions” to improve areas of their life. They might choose to start eating healthier, exercising, reading instead of watching TV, or spending more quality time with family. Other folks might decide to stop doing things that they see as harmful, or at least do those things less. Examples might be to stop eating junk food or spend less time on their phones and other devices.
Parents are no different. Lots of parents see the new year as a time they can help make a shift in their family, and they’re right! The new year is the perfect chance to take a look at our parenting and see if there are changes we might like to make. You may want to change how you set boundaries (Asset #11: Family Boundaries), or improve the way you communicate with your children (Asset #2: Positive Family Communication). Perhaps you will want to create a plan for how to have family meals together more often.
Whatever change you are interested in making, there are a few tools you can use to make sure the transition is a success.
Before you can work on the area you chose, you’ll need to make a plan. Decide on the steps you will take to make the change happen. To keep it from feeling overwhelming, just choose 3-5 items to work on. If you pick too many, you might get stressed out and not want to start at all!
For example, say you have noticed that your kids’ bedtime routine is getting a little crazy. The kids get wound up and excited instead of relaxed and ready for sleep. You don’t have a clear plan for how to complete all the steps of the bedtime process. The result? You end up getting frustrated and bedtime takes way too long.
To change this, you’ll need a plan that includes just a few simple steps. For instance, you might decide that the only three things you’ll change are the following:
- Have the kids get off their screens 30 minutes before bedtime,
- Oversee brushing teeth and getting into pajamas so they don’t get rowdy, and
- End with a book or story and snuggle to bring some quality time and connection into the process.
That’s enough! Keep your plan simple, and it is more likely to go well.
The next tip for helping your new system succeed is to prepare the kids ahead of time. Letting them know what is going to change will help them not feel caught off guard, and can even keep them from getting upset about the new process. This will encourage them to get on board. It’s like a pep talk, but it’s a “prep talk” instead!
See if you can let your kids know a couple of days before you plan to start. This way, if they have questions before you get going, you can answer those before things are already changing. Try to pick a time when you can all be together so you can give the news to all the children at once and take care of any questions/protests that pop up right away. Be sure to include three things in your little “prep talk”:
- What it is that you feel needs work or is not going great
- Why it needs to change
- What the new changes will be
Sticking with the bedtime routine example, you might say something like this: “Hey, everyone, bedtime has been getting a little crazy around here. You are getting kind of hyper, forgetting to brush your teeth, and sometimes not even getting to bed on time. This needs to change because it causes me to get frustrated, which isn’t fun for any of us, and because you need your sleep to do well in school the next morning. So, we’re going to be making a few changes to help things go more smoothly. At 7:30, I’m going to have you put all screens away and turn off the TV. Then I’m going to be with you while you get your jammies on and teeth brushed. The last part is fun, though! If we get all of that taken care of, there will be time for some snuggles and a book or story before we say goodnight. Now, what questions do you have about this?”
Be ready for a few protests. Some kids are especially resistant to change, but if you listen to them and show them you take their concerns seriously, they are likely to come around. So don’t skip this step! Talking with your kids before making changes will give them comfort and help them buy in to the new way of doing things.
3. Push “Play”
Once you have made a plan and communicated the upcoming changes to your children, go ahead and start putting your plan in place. Follow the steps you decided on and stick with it. Try your best to stay consistent, but if you have a rough day, that’s ok. Be kind to yourself. Creating new habits is hard, even for adults. If you were doing great for a week, and then had a tough go at bedtime one night, don’t throw in the towel. Keep at it and eventually the new way of doing things will feel natural and comfortable for everyone in the family.
A Final Note
Changing habits and systems can be challenging, but it is worth it to create healthy patterns in your family. If you are thinking of making some changes to your parenting, the new year might be just the opportunity you need to make it happen. Here’s to making positive changes for yourself… and your kids.
Happy New Year!