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As the year rapidly comes to an end, many people think about making the next year better. The idea of New Year’s resolutions has been around for thousands of years. The practice of looking back at the past, then forward to what’s to come is the hallmark of creating New Year’s resolutions for yourself and for your family. 

Here are some must-have resolution suggestions for the different facets of your life.

Personal Resolutions: 

1. Practice gratitude.

Believe it or not, an attitude of gratitude and appreciation affects your perspective of the world and what’s happening around you. Gratitude helps you recognize that it could be worse – no matter how difficult something is. 

2. Care for yourself. 

Self-care is a trending term these days. You may actually be resistant to self-care because it can be seen as selfishness. However, at a minimum, it’s essential to make sure that you are eating and sleeping well, and moving. Intentionally taking care of yourself can make you a better person, spouse, and parent. 

Couple Resolutions: 

1. Practice “couple” time.

Spending quality time together can enhance your closest relationships. This may look different depending on your stage of life and interests. Be intentional about making time for each other in the new year.

2. Show appreciation.

Show appreciation for your partner affirms that you see them. It doesn’t matter how small the task is. Appreciation keeps you from taking your spouse for granted. Make a habit of trying to find the good in your spouse and watch what happens.  

3. Work on deeper connections.

It’s easy to get so overwhelmed with the busyness of life that we forget to connect. In the new year, be aware of how you can connect with your spouse during these four times in the day: 

1) When you wake up in the morning

2) When you depart for the day

3) When you reconnect after work 

4) When you say good night 

These little moments can totally impact how you build intimacy in your relationship.

Family Resolutions: 

1. Eat meals together. 

For years, dozens of studies have shown that family meals decrease substance use, eating disorders, and depressive symptoms. Family mealtimes also increase academic success and self-esteem. Additionally, eating together strengthens the parent-child connection. Schedule at least four meals to eat together. It can include Saturday breakfast or Sunday dinner. (Now you have two more to put on the calendar.)

2. Volunteer together.

Children can often believe that their wants, needs, and desires are the most crucial thing in the world. Volunteering allows them to get out of their world and help others. You might start small by helping a neighbor or planning to volunteer monthly at a local animal shelter. 

3. Take an annual family trip.

The purpose of a yearly family trip is to take time away from the day-to-day and have focused time together. It’s easy to get disheartened about financing a family trip to, say, a famous amusement park. Instead, focus on adventure and making memories that last a lifetime.

4. Unplug from technology.

Technology has become an integral part of our lives, but it can be a distraction sometimes. In the new year, make a conscious effort at specific times to step away from the phones, tablets, etc. Have a bowl near the dining room table where everyone can place their phone before you sit down to eat together. For a more significant challenge, take one day a month where everyone unplugs. 

5. Schedule weekly family fun nights.

Playing board games or watching a movie together once a week is great for bonding! You can share the games and movies that you enjoyed growing up with your children or discover new ones as a family.

As the new year gets closer, choose an activity from each category. Remember, your goal is to increase the connections in your family by spending time together. Start slow. You don’t have to do it all! Keep your focus on bonding with your spouse and your children. And remember to have a GREAT and prosperous new year!

Sources:

Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth

5 Ways to Start the New Year Off Right

Reflection and intention can help you reach your goals.

One more year is almost in the rearview, and the countdown to the new year is on. Can you believe it? If you’re like me, you may already be thinking about new opportunities and goals to help you start the new year right.

If you’re rolling your eyes at the thought of “New Year’s Resolutions,” let me just state the obvious: There’s nothing significant about January 1 when it comes to goals. There is nothing magical about new year’s resolutions. In fact, research has found that only about 45% of people even make resolutions. (And 35% of those who do quit them before the end of January.)

So, are they even worth it? While resolutions may not be the most successful, there is a lot of benefit in setting goals for yourself. Goals can help you become who you want to be, provide stability and drive you. January 1 gives you a good starting point. The calendar flips to another year, and it’s often seen as a fresh start. 

But, how do we start the new year off right?

1. Reflect on the previous year. 

Healthy things grow. Healthy people are no different, but to grow, we have to see where we are. Start by looking back at the previous year and ask yourself:

What went well last year?

What did I accomplish?

How did my life improve?

What goals did I abandon? Why?

What hurdles did I overcome?

What do I wish I had spent more time doing?

2. Ask yourself, “What do I want to improve upon and why?”

You have the best opportunity to achieve the goals you set for yourself. Be careful not to set your goals based on what another person or our culture says. Your goals are about your health, finances, career, relationships, or whatever you choose. No matter how good a goal is, the success rate is diminished if it’s set for the wrong reasons. Side note: There is no magical number of goals either. Maybe you just need to start with one and focus on it until you achieve it.

3. Set SMART goals.

Ever heard of a SMART goal? SMART is an acronym coined in the Management Review Journal in 1981. It means specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. It’s a business model for setting goals, but it translates well to other types. Here’s a brief explanation of a SMART goal:

  • Specific: Your resolution should be absolutely clear. Instead of “I want to get in better shape,” say, “I want to run a 5k in 3 months.”
  • Measurable: You need a way to measure your progress. Depending on your goal, you may have to search, but look for a tool to measure your progress. Choose a method that you’ll stick with.
  • Achievable: If it’s not attainable, you’ll probably give up too soon. Don’t try to jump too big, too fast. If there’s a big, lofty goal you want to achieve in the future, that’s great. Break it down into smaller goals and take those on. It’s a lot less daunting to say you want to lose 5 pounds in 2 months than to say you want to lose 50 pounds.
  • Relevant: Does the goal matter to you? Is this something you want, not anyone else?
  • Time-bound: Every goal needs a timeframe. The timeline must be realistic. Set a target achievement date and set benchmarks along the way. 

4. Build a support system.

Achieving goals is a lot easier when you surround yourself with people cheering you on. Come alongside friends or family, and all agree to share your goals and support each other. Accountability will push you to keep at it. If you need to, find an online group with similar goals and journey together.

5. Write it down.

This seems simple, but there’s power in writing your goals, perhaps in your planner or on a sticky note in a prominent place. Make sure they are somewhere highly visible so you can read them over and over. And you can check off that goal once you achieve it. 

Go ahead and set those goals for the new year. But take the time to make a plan. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” 

Other resources:

Gratitude Challenge

How Failed New Year’s Resolutions Can Affect Marriages – First Things First

Relationship Resolutions – First Things First

10 Resolutions for a Healthy Marriage – First Things First

10 Ways to Connect With Your Kids This Holiday Season

Make your time during the holidays together worthwhile!

Staying connected as a family can be challenging during the holidays, especially after you factor in parties, school programs, family celebrations, and the everyday busyness of life. But don’t worry, connecting with your kids doesn’t have to be complicated! 

Here are 10 ways to connect with your kids this holiday season:

1. Play games.

A lot is going on right now, but playing games with your kids is a great way to connect. Mom or Dad, let’s be honest: We can sometimes see this as an inconvenience. Most games are pretty quick, though, and your kids will appreciate the time you spend together. So break out the cards or board games, and let them win a little.

2. Include them in the holiday prep.

If your family is like mine, you’ve probably been going in 10 different directions. That’s a lot for kids to take in. And they want to be helpful. Let them help with baking and wrapping presents. If you’re hosting a party, they can help get the house and food ready.

3. What’s their favorite thing to do during the holidays? 

There’s so much to do and so much fun to be had! Find out what your child loves to do and do it as a family. My oldest always wants to ice skate, so we’ll carve out some time after New Year’s to hit up an ice rink. Our youngest loves Christmas lights, so we take every opportunity to enjoy the lights. 

4. Sing Christmas songs together. 

Nothing says holidays like music. Let everyone pick out some songs and sing them together. Let the kids take the lead. Create a playlist for car rides. Maybe you can even go Christmas caroling!

5. Watch holiday movies together.

Grab some popcorn, ditch the electronics and watch some holiday classics. Maybe let each member of the family choose a favorite. A fun idea is to let everyone write movie titles on a slip of paper and drop them in a jar. Then you can randomly select and enjoy them together (without fighting over who goes first).

6. Try hot beverages together and teach them how to make their favorite.

You know what’s good on a cold day? A hot drink! Introduce your kids to a few different hot drinks and make them together. My 9-year-old loves to make hot chocolate with mini marshmallows and a candy cane. Get creative and help them discover what they like.

7. Set aside time to check in on them. 

The holidays are hectic for everyone. Rushing from work parties to social parties to school events can be exhausting. Your kids feel it, too. Set aside some time to talk and see how they’re doing. Listening can help you connect deeply with your kids.

8. Make something special for others.

Our family has two holiday traditions that we look forward to every year. We make peppermint bark for our neighbors. The kids have transitioned from just delivering it to helping make it. They love to give. We also bake cookies for first responders on Christmas. They love to deliver these to the local fire or police department. Ask your kids what you can do as a family to give back to those around you.

9. Serve the community.

The holidays are a terrific time to give back. Contact local organizations to see if you can volunteer as a family. Try your local food bank, homeless shelter, or the Salvation Army if you’re unsure where to start. Or try one of our personal favorites: Clean up a local park or neighborhood. 

10. Take a family day.

Most kids get a two-week break for the holidays. You may have travel plans and family gatherings that take up lots of that time. But take a day for just your family. Make it an adventure and let the kids help plan it. 

I’ve found that the greatest gift I can give my kids is my time. We love creating memories together. They may not remember the presents you gave them, but they will cherish your presence and attention. 

Other blogs:

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent

5 Ways to Build Teamwork in Your Family

8 Tips For Setting Technology Boundaries In Your Family

How To Avoid Stress This Holiday Season

These things can help you navigate the season with more peace.

Holidays are wonderful times of the year, but it’s easy to get caught up in trying to make each one the “best” holiday ever. A lot of holiday stress comes from that expectation. Although we all want to avoid holiday stress, it usually shows up in different ways. It may look like wanting to purchase the perfect gifts, decorating your home immaculately, or preparing the food that everyone loves. Let’s face it, stress happens! But there are some ways you can try to avoid it.

Here are some tips for avoiding stress and bringing “happy” back to the holidays.

Create and utilize healthy boundaries.

Boundaries are limits or rules that we set for ourselves or others, and keeping those can help minimize holiday stress. You don’t have to attend every party you are invited to. Respecting the boundary of your time allows you to decide what activities you want to participate in during the holidays. When you embrace your money boundary, you choose what gifts to purchase and how much to spend. Healthy holiday boundaries can save time and strengthen relationships.

Create a schedule that works for you.

Schedules can often go by the wayside during the holiday season. We become overwhelmed with things to do. When thinking about your holiday calendar, remember to keep your daily routines on it. Making time to exercise, get enough rest, and give yourself time for a break when you need it is essential.

Examine your priorities.

Many people try to do it all for the holidays. However, it’s hard to do it all and keep your wits about you. Take time to examine what matters most to you by asking yourself some questions:

What’s the most essential part of the holiday to me?

What memories do I want to make this year?

What am I unwilling to do?

Once you’re aware of your priorities, you get to choose and adapt. For example, let’s say your focus is spending time with your family. You all have a tradition of going to hear your local symphony orchestra play, but you don’t have to do that because you always have. Maybe this year, your family has a holiday bake-off instead. The main thing is that your family spends time together, not how.

Presence, not perfection.

Media has created so much pressure around the holidays. And sometimes we do it to ourselves.

Perfect tree, perfectly decorated. 

Perfect gifts for family and friends. 

You have to host the perfect holiday party with the ideal menu. 

Do you feel the stress yet? 

If your priority is spending time with your family, it’s presence, not perfection, that matters. I’m not saying you shouldn’t put up a tree, host a party or get gifts if you want to. I am saying that prioritizing your family means creating memories and moments by being there. You can choose to slow down and be present in the moment. Don’t miss your moments.

Choose to see the positive. 

Your perspective on the holidays can determine how much holiday stress impacts you. You already know that holiday stress will occur, but you get to choose whether you see the holidays as a half-full or half-empty glass. Your perspective allows you to be willing and open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Whether your holidays are a great time with family or you’re glad it’s over because you don’t have to see some of “those people” until next year depends on your perspective. 

The holidays can be times of fun, family, food, and sharing life together. They can also be filled with overwhelming expectations. Deciding how you spend your holidays NOW can help you navigate the season with less stress. I hope you’ll be able to look back and feel good about the time with your family – which is what the holidays are really about.

Other blogs:

How to Connect at Family Mealtimes

DIY Date Night: Tree Traditions

5 Ways to Build Teamwork in Your Family

15 New Thanksgiving Traditions for the Family

Celebrate the holiday with these fresh takes.

For many, Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family, make memories, and eat a lot. Some of us have traditions that trace back generations. What about you? Perhaps you look forward to your aunt’s sweet potato pie or anticipate what everyone will say they’re thankful for. 

It’s also fun to start some new traditions that may become part of your family’s fabric. Your kids can look forward to them, play a part in making it better every year, and remember the first time you did it together. Who knows? They may pass it on to their children one day because they helped start the tradition.

Thinking about starting some new Thanksgiving family traditions? Check out these ideas.

1. Do a morning Turkey Trot.

Participate in a charity walk/run/race as a family. My city has one to benefit a local family shelter. No need to be a stellar athlete. Get active while helping a charity. This link lists Thanksgiving Day charity runs throughout the U.S.

2. Share words that will leave imprints on hearts forever.

a) Draw names in your family the week before Thanksgiving. 

b) Write a handwritten note of gratitude to that person. 

c) Stick it in an envelope.

4) Read the notes on Thanksgiving.

3. Facetime/Zoom family and friends who can’t join you. 

Schedule the Zoom ahead of time and see how many extended family members you can get on one call. Be sure to screenshot all the faces. Doesn’t have to last long. You’ll have different homes with Thanksgiving parties linking up for a Zoom party.

4. Deliver treats to local public servants: police officers, firefighters, convenience store workers, etc. 

Bake some cookies or homemade brownies to thank them for their service. Individually wrap them and include a note of thanksgiving and the recipe. This will help your kids learn to think of others.

5. Create a family Thanksgiving music playlist full of seasonal songs. 

Music has a way of keeping the mood just right.

6. After the meal, take a walk and play kickball, wiffle ball, or football. 

Make it a family or neighborhood event.

7. Get to know your family with a game of “Would You Rather?” or “2 Truths and a Lie.” 

You can do this on your family Zoom, around the dinner table, or during the post-meal walk.

8. Teach your kids how to make a family favorite Thanksgiving dish. 

It’s never too early to start passing down traditions to the next generation.

9. Visit a nursing home, foster home, etc.

Spend time with people who may not have family members around. Call ahead and schedule. Workers at the facilities can often direct you to those who will most appreciate your visit.

10. Invite a neighbor or someone who doesn’t have family near to share your Thanksgiving. 

11. Have kids make the appetizer (with your assistance, of course). 

You may not want them in on the main feast quite yet. The kiddos will be beaming with pride when they see everyone eating what they made for the festive occasion. If the appetizer isn’t good, everyone will forget once the turkey, ham, and pies hit the table.

12. Ask lots of questions.

Set questions out for families to discuss while eating. Make it fun and informative. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn about each other.

13. Have a post-meal family game time.

Play a good group game like Spoons, Mafia, Taboo, or Uno. (Note: Use different Uno versions: Uno Attack, Uno Triple Play, or Uno Flip.) Everyone will be talking about the good times and laughs until next Thanksgiving.

14. Get outdoors for a Friday morning hike.

Leaves are colorful. Depending on where you live, the weather may be delightful, with a slight bit of chill. Spend time hiking with the people you love. Bonus: You’ll see plenty to be thankful for.

15. Volunteer.

Serve at a community kitchen, homeless shelter, or any number of places. Call ahead to save your spot, because lots of people volunteer during the holiday season. 

Don’t get discouraged if some new ideas miss the mark. Sometimes the joy is in the attempt. But if you hit on a new tradition or two, you’ll add even more joy to the idea of spending Thanksgiving with the ones you love.

I know I’m not the only one who finds the task of hunting down the “coolest” and most thoughtful Father’s Day present superbly difficult. Your challenge has probably been trying to find “The Thing” that perfectly encapsulates how amazing of a father your husband is. IMPOSSIBLE. Sure, there’s the Home Depot gift card, or the steak dinner, or the new grill or gadget (not painting a blanket statement on the guys, this has just been my own experience). However, none of these things ever seem to accurately express the depth of gratitude you have for your man! 

I may have a solution that seems simple on the surface but can express what a Home Depot gift card cannot: Words and Actions of Affirmation and Encouragement. 

Joel Wong, psychologist and author of The Psychology of Encouragement, says, “Encouragement can be defined as the expression of affirmation through language… to instill courage, perseverance, confidence, inspiration, or hope in a person within the context of addressing a challenging situation or realizing a potential.” 

A great dad is living into the challenge of parenting your kiddos. And believe it or not, he probably needs affirmation more than you think he does. (And maybe even more than he thinks he does!)

I don’t know about you, but one of the ways I feel most loved is when I am acting within a challenging situation and someone on the outside takes my chin and tells me that I’m doing a good job. 

Simplicity can be incredibly powerful. 

So, here are 10 ways to affirm your husband as a dad: 

  1. Write down one way he has been an amazing dad for each year he has been a parent. So, if he’s been a parent for 10 years, that’s 10 pieces of encouragement! 
  2. This one is for the “physical touch” people. Either take your man’s hands, or give him a hug, or cup his face in your hands and tell him that he is killin’ it as a dad and that you’re thankful he is your partner. 
  3. Ask how you can best support him as a father. This question will show your husband that you care deeply about his needs and that you’re there to support him. 
  4. Gather your kids and tell stories about all the ways he has been an amazing father. This could become a Father’s Day tradition! Stories could include daddy-daughter dates or help with homework, etc. 
  5. Think through the hopes and dreams you had for how your husband would parent your future children. Tell him the ways he has either met or exceeded those desires. 
  6. Ask him what his highs and lows of parenting were this year, and then see what conversations this sparks. Listen to him and affirm him where needed. 
  7. Since quality conversation leads to quality sex, this feels like an appropriate lead-in. From time to time, get the kids to bed early, just so you and your husband can have some time alone together (if you know what I mean)! It will make him feel like a priority. 
  8. Challenge your kids to write down some ways they think their dad is the best. You could fold up the pieces of paper, put them in a hat or bowl, and then read them one by one at dinner time. Have your husband guess which kid wrote what! 
  9. Affirm your husband in public as well! An awesome dad friend/co-worker told me that his wife is great at standing up for him when he finds himself at the butt of a harmless joke. “When other moms might make a harmless joke at my expense, like, ‘Oh, he’s taking care of the kids tonight? Think they’ll be in one piece when you get back?’ [My wife] is pretty quick to let them know how capable I am, which tells me she has confidence in me.” 
  10. Don’t be afraid to go big for Father’s Day! Celebrate your man’s dadness with his favorite meal, or by doing something he loves to do, etc. 

Other helpful resources:

Practical Ways to Practice Generosity in Marriage

DOWNLOAD: 30 Days of Gratitude and Love

DOWNLOAD: 25 Family Activities

First Things First Virtual Date Night

How Failed New Year’s Resolutions Can Affect Marriages

If you don't reach your goals, it doesn't mean your relationship is a failure!

So, how are those New Year’s resolutions going?

According to data collected in 2018 by the fitness app Strava, January 17 is when many start to give up on their resolutions. By early to mid-February, many have thrown in the towel. What does this mean for you and for your relationship? 

If you set goals as a couple, maybe to rein in finances or invest in your marriage, failure can seem detrimental, especially if one spouse is ready to give up. At the same time, the other wants to push forward. When both partners aren’t on the same page regarding goals for their relationship, resentment can develop. One person throwing the towel in may lead the other to think they don’t care or are lazy. So what do you do?

A failed goal doesn’t mean that your relationship is a failure. 

Remember, your relationship’s health is most important. It may be time to press pause on the pursuit of the goal and reevaluate. Have a conversation about why one or both of you gave up. Communication is a necessity! Don’t wait. Talk. 

Ask yourselves if the goal is a mutual interest or if one spouse wants this and the other went along trying to support it. My wife and I have the goal to be a healthier couple physically. We want to be healthier for our kids, but we don’t go about it the same way. I may have my eyes set on running a marathon. She may be pursuing healthier eating habits and consistent cardio workouts. We support each other and are each other’s #1 cheerleader. We’re committed to helping each other reach our goals. 

Don’t worry; January 1 doesn’t hold any magical power when it comes to goal setting. 

You can adjust and start fresh on whatever day you choose. (YES!)

Here are some questions to ask if you feel like your relationship goals aren’t going as well as you hoped this year:

  • Who do you want to be as a couple? As a spouse?
  • What is the motivation for the goals?
  • Do you have a plan?
  • Are the goals realistic and achievable?

Knowing the why and how is essential to accomplishing the goal. Identify who you are as a couple and your identity, then work the plans out from there. Maybe as a couple, you want to influence others to prioritize their relationship by having consistent date nights. That’s your goal. How do you work it out? Schedule your date nights and make them a priority on your calendar. Other people will recognize this, and you may influence another couple to do the same. 

Realizing a goal is about who you want to be as a person; achieving it is a journey, not a pass/fail. 

You can and will make adjustments as you go. Adjusting is not a sign of failure but a sign of growth. Commit to working together and supporting one another.

Don’t let failed resolutions affect your marriage. Step back, have a conversation, reset your goals, and plan for success. 

Other blogs you may want to check out on this topic:

25 Holiday Conversation Starters for the Whole Family

These ideas make it easy to connect while you talk!

Whether you’re together or apart this year, these holiday conversation starters are sure to spark some joy and help you get to know each other better.

Now go get your party started!

  1. In your opinion, what would the ultimate winter wonderland look like?
  2. What is your favorite Christmas scent?
  3. What is the single most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
  4. If time were not a concern and you had plenty of money, how would you decorate the outside of your home?
  5. Candy canes, of course, are the traditional candy of Christmas. If you could have your way, what would be the official candy of Christmas?
  6. You have a beautiful 50-foot pine tree in your front yard that you are allowed to decorate with only one color of lights. Which color would you choose?
  7. Of course, red and green are the traditional colors of Christmas. What two other colors do you think could—or should—become the standard for the season?
  8. At Christmastime, which do you honestly enjoy more—giving or receiving?
  9. What is the first Christmas you can remember? What do you remember about it?
  10. Do you have any ethnic traditions that you honor during the Christmas season?
  11. In your opinion, what word(s) would best complete the following phrase: “‘Tis the season to be …”?
  12. What holiday food do you enjoy the most?
  13. Which event or aspect of the Christmas season do you look forward to most of all?
  14. If snow could fall in any flavor, what flavor would you choose?
  15. What makes a Christmas gift really special to you?
  16. If you could Christmas shop until you drop in any one store, which store would you choose?
  17. What do you typically do the day after Christmas?
  18. If you could indulge in only one type of cookie this holiday season, which cookie would you be eating a lot of?
  19. If you could invite any famous person to your house for Christmas dinner, whom would you ask?
  20. No other time of the year affords such a great opportunity to enjoy good food and drink. In your opinion, what is the best taste the Christmas season has to offer?
  21. What would be the ideal way for you to spend Christmas Eve?
  22. On a scale of one to ten (with one being very relaxing and ten being very stressful), how stressful is the holiday season for you?
  23. What brought you joy this year?
  24. If you could spend Christmas anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
  25. What is your favorite Christmas movie?

Related blogs:

100 CONVERSATION STARTERS TO INCREASE YOUR FAMILY’S CONNECTEDNESS