Make New Year’s Resolutions a Family Affair

As the year 2019 draws to a close, the time has come to sit back and reflect on what has passed and what is to come. Common New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on personal goals such as exercise, diets, decision to quit smoking or study harder. For a change, why not make New Year’s resolutions together as a family instead?

The key to successfully achieving a family resolution is to make a commitment as one unit – this helps everyone to keep each other accountable. The intended goals should be something that all in the family can agree upon. Equally important is that the resolution should be something that is achievable.

Start by sitting down everyone in the family (yes, even the little children!) for a brainstorming session on some goals your family would like to work toward collectively. Remember to maintain an open mind and allow for all to contribute. This helps get everybody’s “buy in”, so all are committed and can work together to help make it a success!

In working towards a goal, start gradually at an appropriate pace and intensity that all in the family can realistically cope with. Do consider each other’s schedules, ages and behavioural differences, but also set an ultimate target for a particular goal which your family wishes to achieve together. It’s easier to start with something that’s manageable, otherwise it may become too overwhelming and lead to a hasty “I give up!”

For example, if your intention is to spend more quality time playing outdoors with your child or children when you have never done it before, start with a weekly trip to the playground for 15 minutes. Once everyone gets used to this routine, you can increase the number of times you go, how long you play there, or both.

Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail, Chairman of the Positive Parenting Programme, also suggests a healthy dose of encouragement: “Family unity and teamwork are important. Praise your child whenever he accomplishes his part and encourage him to follow through with the family resolutions agreed on throughout the year. Ask him to keep you accountable for your part as well!”

Starting new family traditions may take some time and effort, but stay committed and you will gradually achieve your goal of building a stronger parent-child bond. Parents can also benefit by getting in touch with their inner child as it is a great way to manage stress.

Dr Zulkifli says: “As parents, your child’s health is not the only thing you should worry about. Her right to play is also critical, so much so that it is included in Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child! So other than ensuring that her safety, health, and nutritional needs are met, you should also spend quality time by playing, talking, and engaging in other meaningful interactions with her.”

Don’t worry if you haven’t got a clue where to start when it comes to ideas for resolutions – Positive Parenting has put together a list to get your brain juices flowing … just in case you need a little help!

Ideas for family bonding

The bond between a parent and a child is crucial as it provides a child with love and security. Don’t delay – do everything you can to start building this bond from the moment your child is born. It will form the foundation upon which the strength and stability of her mental and emotional health are built on, later in life.

Consultant Developmental Paediatrician Dr Rajini Sarvananthan reveals: “This is particularly important for infants and toddlers as strong emotional bonds often develop in the first few years of life. Many parents tend to underestimate the importance of child-led unstructured play. Play is ideal for spending quality time with children in the early years. Even parents of older children or adolescents can still use play as a means of engaging with their child.”

To build a stronger parent- child bond, Dr Rajini suggests five family resolutions you can adopt:

1: Go out and play!

This is a great way to kill two birds with one stone – you can spend quality time with your family while doing healthy outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, or exploring natural places.

This ties in neatly with the recommendation to be more physically active. You can opt for daily 10-minute morning or evening family walks around your residential area, or mid-week walks in the park, followed by weekend family sports sessions (volleyball, badminton). Later, you can slot in monthly picnics or day trips to nature attractions such as waterfalls, lakes and forest reserves.

2: Have a weekly game night!

“Playing games together is a great way to have fun as a family. It also aids in the development of your child’s communication and problem solving skills,” she says.

Playing together is a great family tradition to instil as it allows you to connect with each other. Some of the games you can consider include classic board games (like Snakes and Ladders, Scrabble, Monopoly), card games (e.g. Bridge, Memory games, Uno, Stacko/Jenga, charades) and even traditional games like congkak.

3: Let’s volunteer!

Find a local community charity that everyone can participate in. Some examples include soup kitchens (e.g. Kechara, Kembara, PERTIWI), Generasi Gemilang, animal shelters (e.g. PAWS, SPCA), wildlife conservation efforts (e.g. WWF), or even school or community recycling programmes/events.

“Volunteering can have a profound impact on your children and help them understand how others live, a skill that can build their sense of empathy. Volunteering is a great shared activity for families, besides the added benefit of making new friends. Giving, compassion and commitment are qualities kids learn by example. Your child will also find more chances to practise and develop her social skills,” advises Dr Rajini.

Volunteering as a family helps you spend lots of quality time together working side by side, working or solving problems as a team, and gives you the chance to do something to address social or community issues (e.g. assisting the poor, helping helpless animals, etc). It brings the problems that may be remote or abstract and turns them into something real that your child can see and experience for herself. All of this will give her the chance to discover how giving can be fulfilling.

4: Let’s acknowledge and appreciate each other!

Both are crucial aspects for a successful relationship with another person. It is an innate human need, and doing so with your child will create a more positive and encouraging family environment for her. If this is not something that you currently practice, then doing so will take a conscious effort.

Turning this into a family resolution means everyone in the family will become more mindful of each other and not slip into the habit of taking each other for granted, which could lead to arguments, frustration and resentment.

“As parents, we must be more observant of what our child does and be more proactive in providing her with positive acknowledgement for her actions, emotions, or feelings and to appreciate her efforts, even if she is doing something that she is supposed to. Doing so shows her that you are aware of what she’s doing, and goes a long way toward validating her existence. Even a simple ‘Thank you’ can go a long way toward making her feel appreciated,” she advises.

5: Practice digital restraint!

How common it is today to see families out together for dinner but engrossed in their phones instead of each other! If you are guilty of this, then it’s perhaps time to consciously make a commitment to ditch this habit.

“Set aside specific gadget-free times and areas and adhere to this strictly. For instance, there should be no gadgets on the table during family mealtimes or during family outings such as family picnics. Remember, it is the quality time spent interacting as a family which fosters better communication. This will ultimately strengthen the family bond, and that is what we want,” stresses Dr Rajini.

Ideas for better family health

Good nutrition is crucial as it is the foundation for good overall health. To achieve this, take a close look at the eating habits of the family. As parents, your own eating habits will greatly influence your child’s eating habits, so it’s vitally important to observe whether your (and by extension, your family’s) eating habits are healthy or not.

According to President of the Nutrition Society of Malaysia Dr Tee E Siong: “Follow the concept of BMV, or balance, moderation and variety to practice healthy eating habits. There are several guides you can use to achieve healthy eating practices, such as the Malaysian Food Pyramid and the Malaysian Healthy Plate. These practical guides will be able to assist you in making healthier choices and in adopting healthy eating habits.”

To get your family on its way to better eating habits, Dr Tee suggests five family resolutions you can adopt:

1: Have family meals together!

Make it a point to have at least one daily family meal together. Ideally, it should be home cooked food, but if you are eating out or ordering from food deliveries, select dishes that are cooked in a healthier manner (e.g. steamed, braised, grilled, or stir-fried).

“Aim to meet the family’s nutritional needs by having a balanced diet that comprises the right foods in the right amounts by using the guides mentioned earlier. This will supply your family with the necessary nutrients they need and will also help to support your child’s proper growth and development,” the nutritionist advises.

He urges families to follow the principles of BMV to be on the path towards healthy eating:

  • Balance – meals should include food from the five major food groups
  • Moderation – refers to serving sizes
  • Variety – choose different food from each food group for a wider mix of nutrients

2: Don’t skip breakfast!

It truly is the most important meal of the day. Make every effort to ensure that everyone in the family has their breakfast. Statistics show that 1-in-10 adults and 1-in-4 children skip breakfast. People who skip breakfast are at a higher risk of overweight or obesity. There is no excuse to skip breakfast as there are several simple ways to prepare reasonable breakfasts.

“Breakfast ingredients can be prepared the night before and be ready within minutes the next morning. Alternatively, you can stock your pantry with single-serving ready-to-eat/ drink items such as wholegrain biscuits, cheese and UHT milk,” suggests Dr Tee. “On some days when you are really pressed for time, you can prepare something real simple such as a slice of toast with a glass of milk, or a bowl of cereal with milk,” he adds.

3: Stick to meal schedules!

Take your meals according to a fixed schedule and avoid deviating too much from it. You should also check with your child’s caregiver or day-care to ensure that she eats her meals on time and doesn’t skip them.

“Ideally, you should have no more than three main meals a day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You may include a small but healthy snack between meals, namely mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Avoid having heavy supper before bedtime – the additional calories will not be utilised by the body. If you consistently take heavy suppers, it will eventually lead to being overweight and eventually obesity,” he warns.

4: Cook together as a family!

Instead of limiting family get- togethers to just eating as a family, why not cook as one? Younger kids can be in charge of easier duties such as washing vegetables and setting the table, while older kids can handle food preparation and simple cooking tasks. Be sure to monitor their progress until you are sure they can do it well.

“Cooking together is a great way to indirectly teach your child how to cook, which is an essential life skill once she moves away from home. You can even have a family cookout or barbecue every so often and take turns to do the cooking or grilling,” suggests Dr Tee.

5: Go grocery shopping together!

Turn grocery shopping into a family adventure! Giving everyone a task to fulfil will turn a simple trip to the supermarket into a fun and educational affair that everyone looks forward to. You can even turn it into an opportunity to educate your child about things such as food choices, reading nutrition labels or food packaging.

“Be sure to plan ahead. When you know what you want to cook for your family, you can quickly plan and list out the food items. When selecting foods, be sure to check their condition and remember to check for expiry dates when selecting packaged foods. Select fresh produce as much as possible” he advises.

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