New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for adults anymore.
A new year can bring new excitement and opportunities to grow for kids, too. They can learn to focus on healthy habits and new goals just like adults.
New Year’s resolutions can be a beneficial way for kids to get motivated, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The group recommends parents and guardians sit down with kids to pick a few things to work toward in 2022.
CNN spoke to experts and asked parents across the globe to share their kids’ resolutions to give your family some ideas to get started.
“As a pediatrician and mom of three kids, I know how important it is to set healthy goals with kids – and to be realistic about those goals,” said Dr. Lanre Falusi, a Washington, D.C., pediatrician in an American Academy of Pediatrics statement.
“Kids also love having something to work toward and to have fun keeping track on sticker charts or getting praise or rewards as they reach these goals, depending on their age.”
“My New Year’s Resolution is to have as big of muscles as my daddy!” – Leo Adams, age 8, Nebraska
If the idea of “resolutions” is confusing to your children, you can talk about goals for the new year.
Olivia Parsons, 7, said her New Year’s resolution is “to eat more sweets and chocolate.” (Sounds delicious, but not sure how the doctors feel about that one.) But when asked about a goal, she added that she wanted “to be good at swimming.”
The idea of a goal may also be easier for younger children to grasp. Jack Frezell, 3, of Ontario, Canada, said his goal for next year is to ”go on my bike by myself.”
Setting goals can teach children persistence, focus and the value of planning, according to Gary Latham, Secretary of State Professor of Organizational Behavior at the University of Toronto, who specializes in goal setting.
“The big big impact is that it teaches them initiative,” Latham told CNN. “It teaches them control over their environment as opposed to being reliant on Mom and Dad.”
Latham said that once kids reach age 7 or so, it’s feasible for them to set a goal and make their own plan for how to pursue and attain it. Of course, guidance from parents is still helpful for kids of all ages – including teenagers.
Goals that are both specific and feasible are key, according to experts. (A few kids who spoke to CNN dreamed big, saying they wanted to take a trip to Italy or go swimming in Turkey – aspirations that might be difficult for an elementary school student without a bank account to accomplish.)
“It has to be specific; it has to be within the child’s ability to attain; and there has to be a reasonable time frame,” said Latham, adding that it also has to be something that the child values.
“The more specific, the better,” Latham added. “If it’s not specific, some kids may be inclined to give themselves a pat on the back when it’s undeserved. And some kids are likely to berate themselves when it’s undeserved … because it’s too general and so you don’t know whether you’re coming close to attaining it or missing it by a mile.”
Latham also suggests setting sub-goals to break up longer-term goals. That can create a more suitable time frame for kids and give them markers of progress.
“Next thing you know, the overall goal has been attained, and it gives kids a sense of accomplishment, excitement and achievement,” he said.
“I want to do more painting and more drawing at nursery.” – Hana Sheikh, age 3, London, England
It’s also important for siblings’ goals to not conflict with each other. For example, families should avoid setting their sights on competing after-school activities or plans that would overlap on weekends. That’s why it’s a good idea to sit down together to make sure that siblings can support each other with their resolutions.
Sophia Mathews, 8, of Illinois, said she resolves to help out others in the new year and “try to be the best me I can be.” Her sister Evelyn, 5, said she “wants to learn how to do the monkey bars and learn how to read” – goals that are perfect for an older sibling to assist with.
“Involving kids in the decision-making, and making these fun for the whole family can help turn these resolutions into long-lasting habits,” Falusi added.
Need more ideas? Here are age-appropriate suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- I will try hard to clean up my toys by putting them where they belong.
- I will try new foods when I can, especially all different colors of vegetables.
- I will learn how to help clear the table when I am done eating.
- I will do my best to be nice to other kids who need a friend or look sad or lonely.
Ages 5 to 12:
- I will drink water every day.
- I will try to find a physical activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) or a sport I like and do it at least three times a week.
- I will try to save time to read for fun.
- I will do my best to take care of my body through fun physical activity.
- I will try to get 8 to 10 hours of sleep that my body needs each night.
- I will do what I can to help in my community. I will give some of my time to help others, working with community groups or others that help people in need. These activities will make me feel better about myself and my community.