Are New Years Resolutions Useful for Kids? Pediatrician Weighs in on Pros & Pitfalls Going into 202
Dr. Amna Husain: Hello, everyone. My name is Dr. Amna Husain, board-certified pediatrician and mom. And I'm coming to you guys for my very first actual educational content episode of my YouTube channel. And we're going to actually be talking about something really fitting around this time of year, new year's resolutions, and if our children should be keeping them. So first of all, it's a really common topic and a really common question. And I'm just going to put it out there for me personally, I don't love new year's resolutions, and I'll tell you why. For me, I don't really like setting a specific timeline for starting a change. When I want to change something about myself and hopefully make a positive change, I like to start that right then and there.
Dr. Amna Husain: So let's say I want to, for example, stop looking at my phone in the morning. It just screws up my morning routine. Why wait for January 1st? I want to start December 17th when that idea pops into my mind. Or if it pops into my mind on the 17th, I'll start on the 18th. That's just the kind of person I am. And I know a lot of people, adults especially, associate New Year's Eve resolutions and New Year's Day resolutions with sort of abandoned illusions and aspirations versus the positive changes that we should be seeing. And then we think that maybe it seems illogical to promote those concepts to kids.
Dr. Amna Husain: I certainly used to think that way before I became a pediatrician, but actually child development experts say it's the opposite. And actually, parents helping their children set goals around new year's time can be something really positive for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's the teaching them the power of creating goals, which is important. We want our children to be goal-oriented because that really does help. It helps in life with a good work ethic, to be hardworking, to set goals, to try to meet those goals.
Dr. Amna Husain: Secondly, following through, trying to actually meet those goals, versus let me just set something and I'll just maybe I'll get around to it, maybe I don't. This way, we're actually having our children follow through. Third, accountability. So parents and children talking about it together, it actually creates a little bit more accountability between both parent and child and can in a way strengthen your bond.
Dr. Amna Husain: So I know that perhaps setting goals for children might seem overly ambitious or might seem a little excessive, but the American Academy of Pediatrics, or the AAP, actually has a number of different goals that are age-specific for children. So for example, if you have a preschool child, you're going to want to think about something as simple as let's make sure we take off our shoes when we enter the home, or something as simple as making sure we wash our hands before we have a meal. When you have older children, perhaps something that's more personalized for. Them that could be decreasing their soda intake, or maybe standing up to bullying.
Dr. Amna Husain: And again, if you're thinking that this is overly ambitious or maybe a bit excessive for children, especially in the age of over-scheduling, which I completely understand, I want you to remember that some experts, and especially child development experts, do think that this is actually the best time that we can start setting goals and goal-setting behavior for children. So I actually want to read you guys a quote from Christine Carter, who's a PhD and author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. She states that, "Kids ages seven to 12 are still young enough that their habits are not firm. They're old enough to think about what a New Year's resolution is and to make their own, yet parents can still guide them." So remember, for young children, it's not about having a profound resolution that might be the same for, let's say, an adult, like me. But it's about, again, setting the goals, trying to follow through and having accountability.
Dr. Amna Husain: So now that we've talked about how helpful it is to actually set goals for children, let's talk about great ways for families to do this together. I actually think setting goals before the new year can actually be a great family fostering activity. You can actually build teamwork as well. And it's a great way to sort of brainstorm together. If you're not really sure what you want to change, it'd be great to get everybody's input. So think about it, write down a goal, maybe even more. Everybody contributes. And then you put that down, maybe on a white board or on a magnet, and then put it up somewhere on the fridge, or in the kitchen, somewhere where everybody can see it.
Dr. Amna Husain: The second most important thing, don't forget about it. So make sure that you're doing regular check-ins. Maybe plan for once or twice a month. Regularly check in. Don't even discuss challenges, but also talk about progress. And again, this is where the bonding activity comes in. So if you're a parent to an adolescent and both of you have goals in the new year to decrease your screen time, well, this is a good time to talk about how you're struggling as well with it. And honestly, it, again, fosters a little bit more bonding, closeness between the family, and teamwork.
Dr. Amna Husain: Now, one thing I really have to remind parents, no matter really what the age is, even if you have a young child, please don't set their resolution for them. It's a surefire way to run into trouble. It's going to cause resentment and possibly even a resurgence of some of that activity that you're trying to prevent. So if you're trying to watch screen time, for example, or make sure your kid gets to bed on time, if they're not really wanting to make that a resolution, you can't force them to do that. Because at the end of the day, this has to be something that's a positive goal for both of you. So if they're not willing to make that their New Year's resolution, then you can't really force that on them, because it will cause a negative association with setting goals.
Dr. Amna Husain: Lastly, please remember that this is also about making it a positive process. So you are a role model and how you approach this and setting your New Year's goals is going to also rub off on them. So make sure we're keeping track of what we're saying, how we're saying it, our actions, and our emotions as well during this time. It's been a really hard year. And I think we're all looking for it to spark in 2021, some kind of happiness, a fresh start. So I know a lot of people are making resolutions. Happy new year to you and your family.