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New Years Rituals 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, New Years 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. Go around the table and have each person in the family say what their favorite thing about the old year was, savoring together the best moments from 2016.  

2. Leave the past behind as you greet the future. If you’re like most people, you’re carrying some baggage you don’t need, whether it’s clutter, anger, exhaustion, or self-judgment.  Ask everyone in your family what one burden they might be able 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.) Finish by asking what everyone is looking forward to in the New Year.

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. They're intended to be a slice of life. Frame them and put them on your wall. As they grow up, 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 keep us on track. If you only know vaguely where you're headed, and you don't have a plan to get there, you're bound to end up somewhere else. Start small. Give yourself the support you need to actually keep your resolution, by making a plan. So 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." Then, write it down and read it daily. Revise your plan as necessary. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction. 

6. Start the year with love and appreciation. Ask your kids what they're grateful for this year, and what they appreciate about themselves, about each other, and about their lives. Lavish a blizzard of appreciation on yourself for all the things you’ve done right this year. From that place of self-love, say thank you for all the large and small miracles in your life. Open yourself to receiving more in the coming year.

May your New Year be filled with every blessing for you and your family. I'm sending you love and appreciation for all the love you create in the world, just by being you.

Dr. Laura

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