Last Modified: Saturday, January 04, 2014 2:28 PM
The new year presents a fresh start and a chance for families to both grow together and individually through New Year’s resolutions.
Kristen Cassidy, a counselor for Family and Youth Counseling, suggested unplugging for a while as a resolution families could make.
“Technology is a big part of people’s households right now,” she said. “I don’t think it is realistic to give it up 100 percent, but a good resolution for families would be to set aside time with no technology, 30 minutes a day or an hour where you are spending time face-to-face with no TV or computer. It could be playing a board game or going outside, sitting at the dinner table, there are a lot of different ways to do that.
“Another one that comes to mind is excercise, to find new ways do that as a family. It does not necessarily have to be going to the gym. I think a lot of kids get a bad taste in their mouth about what excercise is — that is has to be sweaty and awful. It can be to take walks together or ride bikes together, I have seen families where everyone got a bike for Christmas and their resolution was to ride together.”
Cassidy said small steps can produce good results.
“You don’t have to go overboard — everybody in a family needs time to themselves, you do not need to feel like you have to take that away from everybody,” she said. “Find ways to spend time with each other where you are actually looking people in the eye or having a conversation with each other.”
The additional time together could be used to give each family member a chance to do something that interests them.
“A good way to do that would be to let everyone have a choice in how that time is spent, one week it could be mom’s turn, then the next week it could be the five year old brother’s turn, he could read his favorite book or everyone could play his favorite board game. A teenager could choose to share their favorite song or something like that,” Cassidy said.
“It is one of those things that might be trial and error, you may not get it right the first time, you might have to play around with it. You may have to make a resolution but realize you have to be flexible with it. You can’t just make a resolution and expect it to fit perfectly for the rest of the year. That’s OK, as we try things we learn. It is OK to try different things and find out works best for your family.”
Light-hearted conversations and activities are a good way to start a routine.
“You don’t want to force anyone to talk about things they are not comfortable with, that would defeat the purpose of the quality time together,” Cassidy said.“A good, easy way to start a conversation with your family is for everyone to get a turn to talk about the best and worst thing that happened to them that day. How much they elaborate would be up to them. They could go into detail as much as they would want or leave it at that.”
Allowing the children opportunities to determine how the time is spent could help improve communication with parents.
“It makes kids feel like they are more equals,” Cassidy said. “There still needs to be some specific roles, but it makes kids feel like they can speak up, like people care about what they have to say and that they are allowed to have an opinion, as they should. As they get older, I think they start to feel alienated from the family.”
Making a habit of parent-child conversations can make it easier to have difficult conversations when problems arise.
“If you have regular conversations when things are going well, it makes it a little bit easier to have a conversation when they are not going well,” Cassidy said. “If families really aren’t making it a point to have conversations, talk or spend time together on a regular basis, they can’t expect kids to come up to them to talk when there is a problem. They have to know ahead of time that they can talk to each other. They need to know that their parents know who they are, understand them and know what they have going on in their lives.”