Lose weight. Eat better. Fall in love. The list goes on and on.
This time of year we’re surrounded by paraphernalia encouraging us to take stock of the last year and figure out a way to make the next one better.
Forty-five percent of Americans made New Year’s resolutions in 2014, but only 8 percent were successful in keeping them, a study by the University of Scranton published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology showed. The top goal of the year? Losing weight.
But this year, family and relationship experts say focusing more on the 10th most popular resolution of the year — spending more time with family — may go a long way to increasing the number of people successful in keeping their resolutions all year long.
Children as young as preschool age can understand the concept of making resolutions, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That means even families with young children can benefit from sitting down as a unit and talking about their goals.
“I think the rituals of holidays, whatever they are, are really important for families,” Robert Milardo, professor of family relations at the University of Maine said. “They offer an opportunity to establish family identities, which in many ways are unique to that family and are really important.”
Milardo said that as we participate in family traditions and activities, we start talking about what we believe, allowing us to know one another on a deeper level.
“Intimacy is not about knowing someone’s deep secret or personal thoughts, it’s about knowing a lot about another person’s life, about the tiny details and what’s really going on with them,” he said.
Because of that, he recommends families focus 2015 on finding ways to spend more time together or getting to know relatives both close and long-lost.
“Spending time together or having meals together, meeting up more often, all of those things are really important to our overall health and well-being,” Milardo said. “They are the building blocks for intimacy.”
Make New Year’s resolutions as a family
Here are a few tips and tricks to get started:
Model positive goal setting: Milardo recommends parents think about the behaviors they want their children to emulate and key-in on those. However, he reminds parents they are not without fault, and neither are their children.
“Perfection is not of this world so I don’t think we can expect parents to be [perfect], and parents should also not expect that of their children as well,” he said.
If you want your children to think about goals and resolutions for 2015, you should, too. Figure out activities you can all do as a family that will increase your opportunities for communication and enjoyment. Want your children to read more? Head to the library as a family once per week and choose books both for them and yourself.
Choose a theme for each month: Since only 8 percent of people who make resolutions stick to them, it’s likely you or someone in your family will find themselves in the other 92 percent next year. So instead of making resolutions in the sense of “lose 10 pounds,” consider making a theme for each month and focus on activities that center around that.
For example, January can be about healthy eating, and you can sit down with the family and decide four new recipes to try. March can be about exercise, find a fitness class to attend, go for a hike or head to a nearby sledding hill. Author Gretchen Rubin did something similiar to this during her Happiness Project, in which she took stock of her life and tried each month to find ways to bring herself more happiness.
Check in often: Milardo said the number one thing families can do more of is talking to one another. Talking about goals and resolutions frequently keeps us all accountable. Give your family members deadlines and set specific times to come together throughout the year to talk about where you are on your resolutions. Reward successes and help your partner or children reevaluate, or make different plans if they’re struggling.