How your family can make positive new year changes

It is the time of the year where everywhere we look, watch, read and listen there is talk of resolutions for the New Year. For many though resolutions seem like a fabulous idea in January, but check in a couple of months later and progress towards the resolution has stalled or even worse deteriorated from its starting position. This can be disheartening and after multiple occurrences many don't even bother with the pretence of committing to a New Year's resolution at all.

The start of the New Year is a perfect opportunity for parents and families to commit to positive changes they would like to make and there is a way to do it so it is actually achievable. Here are three key tips to help you make sustainable positive changes to family life:

1. Start small - realistically you can make changes at any time of the year, so don't think that you have to make a massive change because it is the only chance you have to do so. You are much better off gaining momentum by working on a small change first, achieving that and building from there.

2. Write it down - a study undertaken by Gail Matthews at Dominican University showed those who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those who didn't. It is important for the whole family to see the goal, so not only write it down, but make it look pretty to look at too. You could even have the kids hand write the goal and decorate it, then pin it on your notice board or onto the front of the fridge - somewhere you will see it every day.

3. Track it - track you progress on a regular basis. Depending on the goal itself it could be as simple as putting a cross on the family calendar or you could use an app to track it, or use a notebook and check in weekly to write a short note about your progress.

Committing to making a positive change as a parent or for the family provides excellent role modelling to kids as well, they can become familiar with this process and learn about persistence, habit formation and develop confidence that they have the ability to change and manage their own behaviour.

Working out what to change can seem a little overwhelming when you are starting out - you want to exercise more, spend more time together as a family, eat better, fight less, work together in the house more, share the workload more, spend more time outside, grow your own veggies, craft more, the list goes on and on.

Starting small gets you on the right track, but what small change should you make? This is where the domino effect comes into play. The domino effect describes how when we make one change in our life, it has a knock on effect to another behaviour, which has knock on effect to another behaviour and so on. Just like the game dominoes, one small little push and set off a chain reaction which has a significant impact. The change you make that sets of the positive domino effect for your family might be different to your neighbours, but here are some examples of what it could look like:

  • Establish a night time routine - this means the house is organised before you go to bed, lunches ready to go, everyone has their clothes ready for the next day and everyone is in bed at a time that gives them enough sleep. The domino effect is that the mornings are more organised, there is greater family harmony as no one is over tired and grumpy - everyone has a better start to their day.
  • Create time each weekend for a family food prep session - everyone works together for a couple of hours on the weekend to help prep food for the week ahead. Kids could bake muffins, chop up veggies, make bliss balls, parents can make meals like curries, pasta sauces, etc so minimal cooking is required when they get home from work. The domino effect is that evening time is less stressful and busy. There is time for the parents to focus on helping the kids with their reading and homework, the family eats better, the family saves money on not spending on take away meals.
  • Allow time for play with the kids each weekend - it is too easy for our weekends to become over scheduled. It is possible to reach the end of Sunday night exhausted and feel like you have spent no time actually having fun hanging out or playing with the kids. Prioritising playtime with the kids each weekend has the domino effect of creating greater family harmony, kids are more co-operative, parents are happier and family life is filled with more joy.

Once you have your first positive change established and it has become part of daily family life, you can then tackle the next one together. Create two or even three of these positive domino effect changes in 2018 and you will have one amazing year for your family!