This is a perfect time to evaluate your previous New Year’s health goals and make sure you and your family stay on track. Many families have goals such as eating dinner together, grocery shopping as a family, focusing on eating more vegetables, or going for nightly walks after dinner. Surprisingly, many kids also have their own goals they would like to accomplish. Supporting and encouraging your child while they tackle their goal is a great way to make sure they succeed.
Here are some ways to help your child keep their positive and successful New Year's goal.
Be Specific & RealisticEncourage children to review specific and realistic goals. Ask them what they would like to improve upon. You might be surprised. It can be something simple like eating less fast food, drinking less soda, eating more fruit or even reaching a healthy weight. First, have them start off with identifying a broad goal such as exercising or eating more vegetables. Then start narrowing it down to a more specific goal such as “I will walk around the neighborhood twice a week for 30 minutes” or “I will snack on one vegetable every day after school”. Both goals are challenging but they are still realistic. The more specific the health goal is, the easier it will be to keep track and achieve.
Remember, small changes over time turn into big changes. Think of these small changes as lifestyle changes. I often say to the students I meet for individual counseling that goal setting is like a big school project. If the teacher gives the class mini assignments within the big assignment, it might be less overwhelming and easier to complete. A big project without small goals is very overwhelming, even for adults. Encourage them to focus on something small and work up to their bigger goal. As your child starts to achieve their goal, you will be surprised how much they accomplish within a year. They might want to add additional goals to the mix throughout the year.
Repeat, Repeat & Repeat
In order to be successful with a goal, it needs to become a habit. To make something a habit, it needs to be repeated multiple times. Here is an example, if your son or daughter would like to make the middle-school soccer team, they will have to work hard to improve their skills. The same goes with goal setting- they have to keep working hard at their goal to be really good at it.
Make Their Own Goals
It can be challenging as a parent to let your child develop their own goals, especially when you have a specific goal in mind. Kids are well aware of the things they would like to accomplish and change. Giving them ideas is perfectly fine, but the final goal should be left up to them. This type of goal setting helps your child feel more in control of their actions.
Roadblocks & Setbacks
Challenges are part of everyday life. Encourage children to take detours if these setbacks arise. For example, if your daughter’s goal was to play basketball outside every day after school and it ends up raining for 3 days straight, what does she do now? If her main goal is to be more active, work together to determine other ways for her meet her activity goal. This is a great temporary alternative until it is safe to play outside. Remember to let them choose the final goal. We cannot change what happens around us but we can change our actions.
Change Their Thinking
Encourage your children to think positively and focus on success and not failure. How many times do you hear “I can’t do this,” “this is too difficult” or “nothing is ever going to change”? If you hear your child repeating these phrases too often, ask them what has been going well for them. Maybe they are doing better than they think. As for the challenges, see if you both can figure out some solutions.
Be your child’s biggest fan. You do not have to go around with pom-poms or “great job” stickers, but provide them with encouragement and a supportive environment. If your child has a goal of exercising more, then go out as a family to the local park or have indoor hula-hoop contests. If your child’s goal is to eat more vegetables, this is a great opportunity to visit the grocery store together and pick out some new vegetables to try. Goals are easier to accomplish when the entire family is on board. It will not hurt the entire family to become more active or eat more fruits and vegetables.
A great way to monitor progress is by keeping track of progress. Simple as can be. Spend quality time together after school to develop a goal progress calendar. This could be a regular store bought calendar or a homemade version. Make it fun by using stickers or color pencils.
Goal setting for kids can be overwhelming but if parents help them along the way, it can lead to success.