Having kids start the year off right! Six ways to make it the best year ever

Sep 28, 2007 at 9:29 p.m. ET

As the saying goes, "It's your life," and for that matter, it's also your child's life. You can choose for this to be the best year ever for you and your children. Especially in light of recent tragedies, now is the time to focus on the steps that will take you where you want to go.

Uplifting goals
Want to make it a great year? Use these six ways to uplift yourself and your children this year:

1. Develop an attitude of gratitude. When did you last smile at someone? When did you last hug someone? Appreciating others can be made into a daily practice, rather than something to do only during a birthday or special event.

Life itself is a gift we have all received. Have yourself and your kids make a gratitude list, which can include people, positive events, skills and talents, and the Earth with all that it provides us. Have weekly meetings to express your gratitude.

2. Find ways to have kids like themselves. Help children recognize their interests and positive qualities. These attract them to others with compatible interests. And as children have positive experiences with others, they become more likable. An added benefit: developing children's abilities can lead them to finding their life's purpose as they mature.

3. Listen to your child.
Listening involves more than just hearing what your child says. It includes validating their thoughts, even if you disagree with them: For example, "I know that it is important to you to do that now, Mary." It also includes empathizing with their feelings: "Dan, you look sad about what happened."

Listening to a child sends the message: You are someone. You are unique, distinct and separate from me. I acknowledge you as a person, hear you out, and recognize your feelings and thoughts. Life becomes far richer when we know that we are not alone, and someone cares enough to listen to us.

4. Develop trust. To the extent that you embody the elements of trust yourself -- such as respect, honesty, consistency and good boundaries -- you can then teach the child these qualities. You may need to do some repair work on your own trustworthiness -- and that can be discreetly shared with the child.

"Yes, Johnny, I'm being more honest at work. I used to come to work late. Now I let people know when I'm late, and make up the time I missed." This candor and vulnerable sharing becomes a great teaching tool and will go a long way toward having the child trust you. Explore aspects of trust in yourself and in your kids through discussion, journaling and meditation.

5. Help your child develop healthy remorse. Remorse is sorrow for having done something wrong. It leads to self-acceptance and fulfilling one's life potential. Helping children with this powerful emotion thus deserves our time and attention. Here are some affirmations for healthy remorse:

  • I can make mistakes. I can still be OK, regardless of what I did.
  • I can forgive myself and let others forgive me.
  • I can flow with change, whether I am prepared or not.
  • I can get my needs and desires met. I can allow for others' needs and desires as well.

These affirmations tell the child that perfection is not the goal. Rather, living and learning is what counts.

6. Catch your child being honest. It's easy to be honest when you made a good decision. But what about when you goof up? Make sure children realize that truth telling has incentives. The goal is for everyone to value honesty even if it comes in the form of admitting misconduct.

Appreciating children for telling the truth, especially at those difficult confessional moments, goes a long way toward establishing trust and healthy remorse with young people. It also helps children develop the character to be honest in the future.

You may have some bumps along the way, but your kids and yourself will appreciate putting into practice any of the above suggestions. These approaches help you communicate with children more from your heart and your being, rather than simply giving kids advice and directions.