Focus on Joys Rather Than Resolutions

by Christina Katz

New Year’s resolutions have become heavily commercialized. Messages coming from all directions would have you believe you are falling short as an acceptable human being in a multitude of ways. You are too poor, too unfit, too uneducated, too lonely, too busy, too selfish, or too boring. You name it and you need to change it, preferably starting on January 1st. But unless parents are clear that they are enough as they are, you risk passing this annual habit of self-recrimination on to your children and their future children.

This year, resist external messages designed to make you and your family feel inadequate and flip New Year’s resolutions on their heads. Resolve to no longer let an annual holiday undermine your family’s sense of wholeness and worth. Resolution comes from the word resolve, meaning to make a decision or determination. This January, why not become determined to resist self-criticism altogether? Take some time over the New Year transition to assess everything you enjoy.

Here are a few family discussion topics that will help you focus on building your family up, rather than tearing each other down. Because, of course, when you feel critical of yourself, nit-picking your kids swiftly follows. Instead, start discussing these topics this month and watch the never-good-enough season transform into the joyful ringing in of the New Year every family craves.

Discuss what was joyful last year. What choices did family members make that brought them joy? Were there some decisions any family members made that created disappointment? You can learn as much from what did not work as you can from what did work, so don’t be afraid to admit to any mistakes you feel you may have made. A balanced year is full of ups and downs.

Express feelings of joy. Have a deeper conversation about choices you made last year that brought you joy. What were the smartest decisions you made from your perspective? How did these positive choices make you feel? Would you make these same choices again? One of the best ways to milk more joy out of last year is to spend time discussing last year’s happiest moments.

Image this year as even more joyful. Ask each family member to make up a story about what an even more joyful year would look like. They can make the story as ambitious or inspired as they like. For example, maybe one family member wants to get admitted to a college of her choice while another simply wants to maintain a long-time enjoyable activity. Remain nonjudgmental. Joy is not a competition and each person’s joy is unique to them. Each family member can tell the story that makes them feel the most content, and no one else in the family should interject their ideas or expectations.

Affirm each other’s visions. After everyone has shared, family members will feel motivated to help each other. First affirm the validity of each family member’s dream. Make sure everyone feels supported by each other. Stressing teamwork in achieving shared individual goals can help reduce sibling rivalry. Kids who are empowered to be authentic don’t have to compete with anyone. Parents can take whatever actions they can throughout the year to support each family member’s dreams. And parents should expect support for their dreams, as well. Don’t sit back and let the kids have all the fun!

You are the creator of your family traditions; you don’t have to go along with the crowd. So celebrate the New Year in positive, constructive ways that build family members up, rather than in negative, critical ways that tear family members down. When you teach your family members to use joy as a touchstone for making choices this year and every year, you give them the keys to creating personal satisfaction in their lives and you get to watch your family grow closer than ever every year.

Resources For A More Joyous New Year

Family Bucket Lists, Bring More Fun, Adventure & Camaraderie Into Every Day by Laura Krupicka
Gracious Living In A New World, Finding Joy In Changing Times by Alexandra Stoddard
Finding Joy: 101 Ways To Free Your Spirit And Dance With Life by Charlotte Davis Kasl
Simple Abundance, Daybook Of Comfort & Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach 

New Year’s Family Share

This year, extend the typical New Year’s Eve celebration. If you or the kids weren’t able to stay up to watch the ball drop—watch a recorded version. You don’t have to stay up until midnight for all the fun. You can even create your own celebration at home that last the entire month.

Throughout the month, have each family member share a bit of their joy from the previous year. Younger kids may need help, but try to let them gather materials and present on their own as much as possible. Emphasize how well each family member is sharing for someone their age. Notice how younger children’s enthusiasm might give older family members permission to be more effusive. Encourage the whole family to show interest and ask questions so each presenter can make new discoveries about their passions.

Here are some ideas for what each presenter might share:
• Toast your joys with sparkling juice
• Read a favorite book passage aloud
• Teach others in the family how to do something you enjoy
• Play a favorite video or board game together
• Perform a short skit
• Prepare a favorite dish or dessert
• Sing a song
• Make collages of your joys
• Do a dance
• Show a favorite television or movie trailer
• Present artwork
• Make a family joy alter with photos and candles or string lights
• Take the family on a guided tour using Google maps
• Share a video of you and your joy in action
• Daydream out loud about future, imagined joys

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