Healthy Resolutions for Kids

Parenting Styles
Family celebrating new year

Hailey Reed and her parents usher in each new year the same way: by sitting down together to share their resolutions. The 15-year-old from Seffner, Fla. (pop. 7,579), says her recent resolutions have included eating healthier foods, making the honor roll and being a better friend by steering clear of arguments. Like all of us, Hailey finds some goals easier to achieve than others.

“It makes me feel great when I stick to a resolution,” she says. “But I don’t feel bad if I slip up.” Setting resolutions since second grade has taught her that occasional slips are part of the process.

Hailey’s mom, C. Lee, 41, and her dad, Khris, 39, get into the spirit as well. “Our own resolutions are things like exercising more, having date nights and paying off debt,” C. Lee says. “The annual meeting is a chance for the whole family to talk about the upcoming year and what we’d like to accomplish.”

The Reeds are onto something, says says dietitian Bethany Thayer, a wellness director in Detroit and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Making New Year’s resolutions can be a good way for children and teens to learn about the importance of setting goals,” Thayer says. “It should be something the child really wants to do. Keep it fun and positive”—no nagging or pressure, she adds.

Ready, set, goal!

As a parent, you can help your child get the year off to a healthy start by following these guidelines for kid-friendly resolutions:

• Consider your child’s age. “To make their own resolutions, children need to be able to think far into the future,” says Susan Bartell, a child and parenting psychologist in Port Washington, N.Y. (pop. 15,846). Most kids aren’t ready to do that until around age 8. If a younger child wants to make a resolution like the big kids, you can certainly help. Just keep in mind that it’s more your goal than his at this age.

• Downsize a big goal. Help your child break down a large, long-term goal into smaller, shorter-term steps. For example, if the long-term goal is to get better at basketball, Bartell says, the short-term step might be to shoot hoops or practice dribbling on a regular basis.

• Fine-tune it together. Next, help your child refine her resolution. “It should be specific, measurable and achievable,” says Steve Ettinger, a personal trainer and youth fitness expert in New York City. Your child can also specify the time frame for completing it. For example, the goal might be to shoot hoops three times a week for two months.

• Focus on the positive. “Let kids know that they haven’t failed if they don’t succeed perfectly,” Bartell says. “The message is, ‘Great try!’” And do-overs are allowed when it comes to resolutions.

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