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Kids can make New Year's resolutions, too

  • Story Highlights
  • January is perfect time for people of any age to start good habits, break bad ones
  • Let kids pick their resolutions so they stay motivated
  • Re-evaluate resolutions after one or two weeks; make changes if necessary
  • If resolution seems impossible, try to break the task down into baby steps
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By Jennifer Shu. M.D.
CNN Living Well expert
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Dr. Jennifer Shu is an Atlanta, Georgia, pediatrician, media spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and co-author of "Heading Home with Your Newborn" and "Food Fights"

If your child experiences a setback, start fresh the following week.

If your child experiences a setback, start fresh the following week.

(CNN) -- Almost half of all adults make New Year's resolutions, but January is the perfect time for people of nearly any age to reflect upon the last year and to start good habits or break bad ones.

If your child is interested in making some improvements this year, ask her what her goals are, as she'll be more likely to stick with something that motivates her such as getting better grades or learning to play the electric guitar. Help her focus on realistic targets with results that can be tracked (such as "I will read 20 minutes per day at least three times a week" instead of "I will read more" and "I will learn one new song on the piano every month").

Re-evaluate resolutions every week or two. If your child experiences a setback, start fresh the following week (fortunately, there are 52 of them!), and if the resolutions seem impossible, try to break the task down into baby steps.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the following 20 age-appropriate resolutions for children. You can talk with your child about some of these ideas as well as create your own.


• I will clean up my toys. This will teach your child responsibility with the obvious side benefit of keeping your house neat!

• I will brush my teeth twice a day, and wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating. Parents will probably still need to help with the toothbrushing part and also floss their child's teeth daily.

• I won't tease dogs -- even friendly ones. I will avoid being bitten by keeping my fingers and face away from their mouths. (Children under 5 are at highest risk of injuries as well as infections from family pets and other animals.)

Kids 5 to 12 years old

• I will drink milk and water, and limit soda and fruit drinks. (One easy rule of thumb is to drink milk with meals and water at most other times.)

• I will apply sunscreen before I go outdoors. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I'm playing sports.

• I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week! (Children need at least one hour of exercise on most days of the week at this age.)

• I will always wear a helmet when bicycling. I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car. I'll sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a lap/shoulder seat belt. (When it comes to safety, these resolutions should be non-negotiable.)

• I'll be nice to other kids. I'll be friendly to kids who need friends -- like someone who is shy, or is new to my school.

• I'll never give out personal information such as my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I'll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer without my parent's permission.

Kids 13 and older

• I will eat at least one fruit and one vegetable every day, and I will limit the amount of soda I drink. (Aim for as many different colors of fruits and vegetables as possible. Also, since many sports drinks and flavored waters contain added sugars, focus on skim milk or water.)

• I will take care of my body through physical activity and nutrition.

• I will choose nonviolent television shows and video games, and I will spend only one to two hours each day -- at the most -- on these activities.

• I will help out in my community -- through volunteering, working with community groups or by joining a group that helps people in need.

• I will wipe negative "self-talk" (i.e., "I can't do it" or "I'm so dumb") out of my vocabulary.

• When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find constructive ways to deal with the stress, such as exercising, reading, writing in a journal or discussing my problem with a parent or friend.

• When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk with an adult about my choices.

• I will be careful about whom I choose to date, and always treat the other person with respect and without coercion or violence.

• I will resist peer pressure to try drugs and alcohol.

• When I notice my friends are struggling or engaging in risky behaviors, I will talk with a trusted adult and attempt to find a way that I can help them.

All About American Academy of Pediatrics

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