At nearly two months into the new year, it’s a good time for families to reflect on making positive changes in their lives. And that doesn’t only apply to the grown-ups. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), New Year’s resolutions can be a great way for kids to focus on forming new, healthier habits.
“As a mom of three, I know how important it is to set healthy goals with kids, and to be realistic about those goals,” says Lanre Falusi, MD, FAAP, a Washington, D.C.-based pediatrician. “Kids also love having something to work toward, [like] keeping track [of their progress] on sticker charts.”
New Year’s resolutions need not just come in January. With almost a full year ahead, there’s plenty of time to sit down as a family to discuss what goals each person would like to make in 2023.
If you need inspiration, here are some ideas for kids’ New Year’s resolutions, suggested by the AAP, local experts and parents.
I will spend less time on screens
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids ages 8-18 get an average of 7 hours and 30 minutes of screen time each day for entertainment. Not only does that decrease their physical activity, but it cuts into valuable time they can spend bonding with others.
To help kids—and the entire family—cut down on screen time, designate blocks of time when all devices must be turned off or placed in a bin. This can be while you’re having dinner, enjoying a game night or going on a family walk.
“Kids are growing up in a world where they have technology constantly pulling at their attention,” says Rachel Noble, a licensed professional counselor in Washington, D.C. “If they don’t put guardrails on screen time, they don’t ever quite connect with the people that are right in front of them.”
I will spend more time with my family
The Takash family in Arnold, Maryland always makes New Year’s resolutions that focus on togetherness.
“We have crazy schedules, but we’ve committed to eating dinner together at least once a week,” says mom Andrea.
Sara Reimers, a Hanover, Maryland mother who created the app Kid Friendly Maryland, encourages families to get out and have adventures together—even if the chores are piling up or you’re feeling lazy. Whether it’s visiting a local museum, checking out a new playground or any other fun activity, you’ll be creating priceless family memories that will last a lifetime—and the laundry (and your pillow) will still be waiting for you when you get back.
“There are so many great adventures in store for you and your kids, but you have to be willing to walk out the front door first,” Reimers says. “I challenge you to just go for it, and in the process be amazed at how wonderful the world looks through the eyes of your children.”
I will eat more colors
And no, that doesn’t mean feasting on Skittles and cotton candy. It means eating fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors—what nutritionists call “eating the rainbow.” Fruits and veggies get their colors from chemicals called phytonutrients, which also provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. The goal is to eat one to two servings of each color per day.
“I have a handout I give my own kids and clients to track their color intake,” says Elizabeth Owens, a certified nutrition specialist in Burke, Virginia. “My son loves checking off the circles for each color.”
I will take care of my teeth
Kids should resolve to brush their teeth twice a day, preferably in the morning after breakfast and at night before bed. While parents should help younger children brush, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says most kids are ready to brush independently by age 7 or 8.
“Use a timer or play a song lasting about two minutes, and divide those minutes equally among all the areas of the mouth,” says Dr. Srotalina Khanna, a dentist at Bethesda Family Smiles in Maryland. “For younger kids, try using fun toothpaste flavors or toothbrushes with characters that appeal to them.”
Parents should also start flossing kids’ teeth as soon as they have two or more teeth that are too close together for a toothbrush to clean between. And kids can cut down on sugary snacks and drinks that cause tooth decay.
I will get more exercise
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends kids ages 6 to 17 get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. This will help them maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure, decrease their risk of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, boost their confidence and mood and strengthen their muscles, bones, joints and heart.
Kids who play sports could easily meet this 60-minute daily goal, but those who don’t may need an extra push. Encourage your kids to move more by making it fun and doing it together. Go for a family walk, bike ride or swim. Play catch in the backyard or shoot some hoops in the driveway. Set up a scavenger hunt or
obstacle course. Or, turn up the music and have a living-room dance party.
I will focus more on the good and less on the bad
Being a kid isn’t always easy. There are friend problems, school struggles and sports tryouts gone bad. And just like adults, kids can easily get caught up in what’s going wrong.
Instead, kids can choose to focus on the good parts of their lives. One way they can do this is to practice mindfulness.
“Mindfulness is learning to control your thoughts instead of letting them control you,” says Noble.
Parents can help kids be more mindful by teaching them to take deep breaths and think about things that make them happy. You can also give kids something to do that will take their mind off whatever is bothering them, such as coloring.
“When a person gets immersed in a project, we call that a ‘flow state’,” says Noble. “They’re so focused on this thing in front of them that everything else just melts away.”
No matter what New Year’s resolutions your family makes this year, we wish you a healthy and happy 2023!