It's the New Year — a time for resolutions — so don't let your family off the hook. Schedule a family meeting to discuss what you each hope to accomplish in the coming year, individually and as a unit. Use this discussion to come up with a few overarching goals that you can use to help focus your priorities. For instance, if one of your goals is to spend more time together, you will probably need to limit activities that prevent sharing a regular family dinner or scheduling a big family vacation. Write down these resolutions and post them somewhere prominent within the household to help keep everyone focused on the whole-family goals.
You can lose sight of overarching goals if you don't remind yourself of them regularly. By setting a regular family meeting, you'll be able to get everyone together to talk about upcoming activities and events and to evaluate them in relation to the family goals. "Family meetings work best when they have a clear agenda. Prioritizing and planning activities should be a consistent agenda item," says Dr. John Duffy, a clinical psychologist and author of The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens. The more involvement and buy-in you have from your kids, the more success you'll experience as a family.
Life can get a little crazy, especially if you have two or three kids involved in regular extracurricular activities. Chances are there'll be the occasional week when you're juggling basketball games, band concerts, PTA meetings and work dinners that prevent you from connecting as a family. That's why having a family calendar is so important. Not only will it help keep you aware of everyone's schedule, but it's also a great way to analyze whether your priorities are starting to get out of whack. If you're no longer experiencing the same degree of family togetherness, ask yourself whether it's a short-term glitch or a long-term issue. If it looks like a long-term issue, bring it up at the next family meeting and discuss ways to cut back and get refocused on your family goals. Duffy suggests posting the family calendar in a central location so that everyone is able to access and add to it as needed.
Sometimes, you will have to decline requests from your family, friends and boss. There are only so many hours in a week, and if you want to keep your family as a priority this year, it means carving out time to spend with the family. If you say "yes" to every request that comes, you'll soon discover you have no time left to give.
Every time your kids ask to take on an extra sport, or your boss asks you to take on an extra project, look at your family calendar and ask yourself honestly if you can fit it in before responding. If adding it to the agenda will compromise your family priorities, then find a way to politely decline.
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