New Year’s resolutions. They’re ambitious, yet intimidating; full of hope, yet all too easily forgotten. And for teens, they’re just plain overwhelming.
“While balanced perspective can be challenging for adults, it is often daunting for teenagers. Impulsivity reigns supreme during adolescence – often limiting our aspirations,” says psychotherapist and Mental Gym founder, Bill Benson, who advises parents on how to approach the subject of New Year’s resolutions with teens.
So how can parents help their teens make lasting New Year’s resolutions? We asked mothers, fathers, family therapists, and parenting experts to contribute their top tips. Their answers may surprise you…
1. Set feasible goals.
Instead of brainstorming grandiose life makeovers with your teen, focus on smaller, more actionable items. Varda Meyers Epstein, Kars4Kids writer and mother-of-12, suggests choosing ten little things and concentrating on those, like laying out school clothes the night before or dedicating ten minutes in the morning to a nutritious breakfast. “Any goal that is ‘can-do’ is appropriate for a teen,” Meyers Epstein says, “They already know they can succeed with them, and it gets them moving forward in a proactive, positive way.”
2. Practice “accepting,” not “expecting.”
“Support your kid’s aspirations by ‘accepting’ rather than ‘expecting,’” says Benson, “Kindly step outside of your own boxed perspective when listening to your child’s hopes, dreams, desires, and goals – you just may learn something by considering the fresh perspective of a developing mind.”
As a way to advance this suggestion into practice, try actively listening to your teen’s New Year’s resolutions, then repackage and repeat them back to your teen, before tweaking them with your own suggestions. Doing so will make your teen feel heard and will create a safe space to further conversation.
3. Don’t call them “resolutions.”
“We don’t make New Year’s resolutions,” states Homeschool Base editor, Sarah Tippett, “we set goals and plan! Of course they’re still New Year’s resolution[s], but we approach things very differently.”
So what’s Tippett’s key to helping her teens make and keep these aspirations? “Make the goals very specific and formulate a plan or a checklist of items that need to be done to achieve these goals.”
4. Set goals as a family.
Renaming New Year’s resolutions isn’t the only way Tippett helps her teens achieve their New Year’s goals. “We also set goals as a family,” Tippett states, claiming accountability as the driving force, “The best way to achieve a goal is to tell everyone you know.” Following Tippett’s advice, try encouraging your teen to keep their sibling updated on their goal to read more. As a parent, follow up with your teen by asking questions or provoking discussion around their resolution throughout the year. Set goals as a family (like going on more walks or making sure there’s always something green on the dinner table), and make it a fun challenge to accomplish them together!
5. Make it personal.
“When your goal involves people who are external factors you can’t control, it will not end well,” Tippett warns. Just as there are many good ways to help your teen make New Year’s Resolutions, there are also many avenues to avoid as well. Tippett’s own child attempted to set a New Year’s resolution that involved improving the relationship between himself and a co-worker. “You can’t expect anyone else to ‘go along’ with your resolution,” Tippett cautions, “Although my teen tried to do a great job, the co-worker was unresponsive.”
6. Write it down.
“I like to tell my kids to write down 10 things they can do to improve their lives — in even a very small way — and to work through that list,” says Meyers Epstein. Other parents agree: “Write it down on a piece of paper or tell your teen to put it in their phone,” says parenting expert, Cherie Corso, “Every day, your teen will look at that resolution. By seeing it, he or she will remember to take actions towards that goal.”
So now that you know how to make New Year’s resolutions, what types of goals should you help your teens set? As test prep experts, it would be downright irresponsible of us not to advocate for resolutions that can help your teen achieve their future college goals. While you’re planning 2017 resolutions with your teen, include feasible goals to help them improve their ACT scores; like following a personalized ACT study plan or committing to raising their score by 10 points with these easy tips. In addition, our experts came up with a few additional suggestions (in addition to the ones above) that implement their advice, including:
- making a point to eat healthier at dinner
- developing a conflict management system to avoid exhaustive feuds with siblings
- flossing daily
Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions success stories of your own? Leave us a comment and share your experience!
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About Rachael Brandt
Rachael loves getting students to be as excited about Magoosh as she is. When she isn't writing, talking, or tweeting about Magoosh, you can find her reading historical fiction or studying Spanish.
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