New Year's Traditions for Families

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives, not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
-Ellen Goodman

In the United States, the celebration of the New Year is not really a family holiday. Too often it's an adults-only event, more focused on alcohol than reflection, no deeper than watching TV waiting for the ball to drop.

But kids are actually fascinated by the passage of time, which seems magical to them. They LOVE the idea of a new year, a fresh start, a celebration of life. And every family deserves the regular opportunity to pause and consider their life. Why not celebrate the new year by connecting with your family about the meaning of life?

Some ideas to give your kids both roots and wings as they head into the new year:

1. Start the year with love and appreciation.

Go around the table and have each person in the family say what their favorite things were about the year that’s coming to a close, savoring together the best moments of 2014.

Ask your kids what they appreciate about themselves, about each other, and about their lives. Lavish a blizzard of appreciation on yourself and your family for all the things everyone has done right this year, including you. From that place of self-love, say thank you for all the large and small miracles in your life. Things don’t have to be perfect for you to appreciate how many things are good. Open yourself to receiving more in the coming year.

2. Leave the past behind.

If you’re like most people, you’re carrying some baggage you don’t need, whether it’s clutter, self-judgment, resentment, or exhaustion. Ask everyone in your family if there’s anything they want to leave behind as the year turns. (If your child says "my brother" or "homework" you can respond by empathizing -- "You are really having a hard time with your brother lately, aren't you?" -- and promising to help them make what seems like a burden into a better part of their life.) Ask each family member to privately write down one thing they want to leave behind. On New Years Eve, light a fire in the fireplace, yard or barbecue (or use a candle in a fire-safe pan). Burn your baggage.

3. Let the kids stay up until midnight.

If that’s a recipe for disaster for little ones the next day, consider changing the clocks to midnight at a more reasonable hour. Toast the New Year with sparkling apple juice in goblets and open the front door to let the good luck in. Take the kids out to blow horns with you in the front yard before tucking them into bed.

4. Every New Years day, take a family photo.

Don't obsess to make these perfect. Please. That will just stress you out and make your children act their least attractive. These photos are intended to be a slice of life. Frame them and put them on your wall, or into an album. Your kids and their friends will love admiring the way everyone has changed over the years— but not as much as you will!

5. Model healthy change, not failed New Years Resolutions.

New Years resolutions fail because they're goals that are tough, and even the momentum of the new year isn't enough to make up for the lack of a plan. If you don't know where you're headed, you're bound to end up somewhere else.

Start small, and give yourself the support you need to actually keep your resolution. Make a short plan to create your desired change, and review it every morning, making adjustments as necessary. The first 30 days, when you're creating a new habit, are the hardest. You're actually rewiring your brain, so be patient with yourself.

Instead of "I will stop yelling," you might start with

"I will notice when I'm yelling and close my mouth...To do this, I will ask my family to signal me when I'm raising my voice, and I will commit to turning away and breathing deeply for a few minutes...I will check in daily with my family about whether I am yelling less."

May your New Year be filled with blessings, large and small.


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Thank you so much for this great advice! You give me ideas for how I can "do it better" and that lifts me up with hope and positivity too!

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