5 Tips for Making New Year’s Resolutions with Kids

New Year’s resolutions seem to have become a bit of an unpopular concept. Some prefer not to participate at all. Others prefer to frame it as goal setting or to choose a focus word for the year. But the basic concept remains the same: reflecting on the past year and looking forward to a new tomorrow. And now especially, getting to experience a new year seems like something worth celebrating.

We are wired for community! We can encourage each other and be encouraged in ways we couldn’t on our own. Looking back at the past year and looking forward to what’s next can be even better when we do it together as a family. Not interested or able to do this with your kids? The same concept can be applied to a group of friends or a partnership! We do this on a super limited scale with my preschool daughter and on a larger scale together with my husband and best friend.

Overall, making New Year’s resolutions with kids can be a fun and bonding experience.

1) Reflect

It’s super easy to get discouraged when we try to move forward without remembering how far we have come. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to reflect on good memories and favorites from the past year. We have fun making lists of favorite family memories, favorite shows/movies, things we accomplished, funniest moments, and more! And we keep that list in a Google document so that we can always look back on past years.

For a preschooler this might look like: Ask them what they remember about specific events. And look back on fun pictures and memories.

For a high-schooler this might look like: Ask them what they remember about the year (or specific events/days). Ask them what they are most proud of. Something that they’re looking forward to. And any other very specific questions that you think might start a conversation.

new years resolutions with kids brainstorming picture
picture created with Canva Pro

2) Brainstorm and LISTEN

One of the most important things about these types of discussions is to listen without being a jerk. Unintentionally or intentionally, we can be rude when people share their vulnerable thoughts. Roommate tells you they want to record a popular podcast; preschooler tells you they want to be a dragon when they grow up—don’t laugh.

And the second is to help each other brainstorm. Bouncing ideas off of someone can help you iron out your thoughts. Brainstorming can look like a table full of sticky notes or just a big discussion—whatever works best for you. When making resolutions with kids, you want to make sure that this portion is short or that you break up this activity into multiple days.

For a preschooler this might look like: Print out pictures of the past year and put sticky notes on the favorites or let them draw pictures on sticky notes. Elementary kiddos can draw or write on sticky notes, too.

For a high-schooler this might look like: Figure out how they best brainstorm (a great life skill!). Encourage them with things you think they do well.

3) Make SMART goals

The acronym means different things to different people, but the point is to make the goals bite-sized and measurable. This is super important when you are making resolutions with kids because they live in the short term.

S – Specific (I will have a pretty lawn vs. I will mow and weed once a month.)
M – Measurable (You can break it up into small bits and measure it along the way.)
A – Achievable (You can accomplish it.)
R – Results-Based (Does it end with a positive and worthwhile achievement?)
T – Time-Bound (You have a start date and a deadline to aim for.)

For a preschooler this might look like: Set monthly or weekly short-term goals and sticker charts. E.g.: Every time we clean up your room, or play nicely with your sibling, we can put a sticker on the chart.

For a high-schooler this might look like: Set some short-term goals and help them think of rewards for finishing the goals. With a long-term goal like college admissions, it would look like making a visual map of the different steps. Remember that even though they are older, teens also live in the short term.

4) Make it FUN

In Finish, one of the better books I’ve read on the topic of goals, Jon Acuff reminds us to make sure that pieces of the goal are FUN! Even if it’s just the rewards you set for yourself along the way. Setting a family trip goal, with ways everyone can contribute and plan, is also super fun!

For a preschooler this might look like: Go on a park picnic after filling up a chart or play super fun dance music while you do chores.

For a high-schooler this might look like: Encourage some silly fun together. Let them choose the music while you clean the house or fill out college forms together. Or maybe let them pick the restaurant you take them to after they’ve finished certain steps on the goal chart.

Setting travel goals for the new year?! Check this article out!

Making new years resolutions with kids family planning session picture
picture from Canva Pro

5) Make it kind

First of all, make sure you are being kind to yourself. Saying to yourself, “I’m going to learn a new language because I’m so dumb” is not reasonable, motivational, or nice.

Setting a goal that helps others usually does just as much for us as it does the people we’re helping. And setting these types of resolutions with kids (and for yourself) models positive and encouraging behavior.

For a preschooler this might look like: Make a goal to create a picture or fun piece of mail for someone each month; learn how to compliment people; commit to picking up trash on the way to the park; work on recycling together; share food you grow together; make treats for helpers…the possibilities are endless.

For a high-schooler this might look like: Create a fundraiser from start to finish; set up a collection; make weekly goals for encouraging/complimenting people; commit to checking in with friends every couple of days; write letters; mentor or tutor someone younger, etc…

BONUS TIP: Make it VISUAL

When setting resolutions with kids or yourself, it’s important to have a reminder of your goal up somewhere. It seriously helps you stay focused. My kids love sticker charts, but I do too! You can also find print-out charts. Just search ‘visual goal charts’ for ideas. Vision boards are another fun way to connect with your kids and lay out your own goals! Check out this how-to guide on them.

Do you already set resolutions with kids or family members? What are your tips?

Excited about one of your resolutions? Share it with us below!

Before you go, check out these other New Year’s posts!

Making Vision Boards
Resolutions for Couples
6 Ways to Help You Stick with Your Goals

Sarah was raised in Plano, took a detour in Oklahoma for college, and now lives in McKinney. She's a teacher and mom who believes that ten 3-year-olds are easier to handle than one. Sarah and her husband, Nathaniel, are foster and adoptive parents and advocates. Big fans of deep conversations, they run a blog that helps parents connect with their kids over entertainment. She likes to try DIY projects that are way over her head and experiment with different teas and chocolates while binge-watching great series. Check out her movie and book guides for parents at Down the Hobbit Hole Blog and follow on Facebook or Instagram .

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