3 Ways to Start the New Year Off as a Family

The holidays have come and gone. The tree is down (hopefully), the wrapping paper is put away, and our kids have headed back to school.

If you’re anything like me, a new year brings thoughts of starting fresh. Of running a marathon, or going to the gym more, or eating better.

But if we’re lucky, those intentions last until February. Then we’re back to our old ways.

So this is not a post about resolutions. We make far too many of them, and keep far too few. Besides, most of us have enough going as a family without adding another thing to the mix.

Instead, this is a post about starting the year off right, focused on family. Full of hopeful optimism, but also realistic expectations.

Here are three ways to recommit to your family in the new year:

1. Eat Dinner as a Family

I get it. We’ve all got a million and one things to do. Life is hectic. One kid has soccer, another kid has piano lessons, everybody has homework, and some nights it’s a miracle anybody gets any dinner at all.

I’m not saying every meal has to be a five-course dinner that takes hours to prepare. Life isn’t a Norman Rockwell painting, and that’s okay.

What I am recommending is, at least a few nights a week, we get our whole family around the dinner table together. We use real plates, real silverware, and we talk to one another.

One of my favorite things our family does is what we like to call the “best part.” After we all have our food, we go around the table and talk about the best part of our day. The kids have grown to love it, and it’s a fantastic way to hear about their days and get them to open up a little about what’s happening in school.

2. Institute a Weekly Movie Night

We’re not big TV watchers in our family. Our kids are allowed to watch one show a day, usually when they get home from school.

That being said, usually about once a week, we eat dinner while watching a movie. We drag a table into the living room, turn all the lights out, and the kids eat at the table while my wife and I eat on the couch.

It’s become a cool way to accomplish a couple of things. First of all, it breaks up the monotony, giving our kids a break from the usual routine. Because we don’t watch a ton of TV, movies are a treat.

Second, it’s a great way for us to introduce them to movies that we loved when we were kids because let’s face it, you can only watch Moana so many times before you start tearing your hair out.

Whether it’s Hook or The Nightmare Before Christmas, I love exposing our kids to movies that we loved when we were kids, and some of their favorite movies have become older ones.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Underschedule

This one doesn’t happen too often, but on occasion, our calendars are free and we don’t have anything pressing to do.

When the stars align and this is the case, we like to take full advantage of the lack of stuff to do. Maybe we go out for donuts. Maybe we stay in and play with LEGOS all morning. Sometimes we go to the park, or the kids spend the morning writing a play to put on for the rest of the family.

I love these days with no schedule and no plans. They are few and far between, but when they do happen, they’re so good for my soul.

Whatever it looks like for you, try and occasionally underschedule. Maybe for your family it’s going to the beach, or the mountains, or taking a day to stay in pajamas and bake.

Family time looks different for everybody, so if the suggestions I’ve made don’t work for your family, figure out something that does.

The world is full of resolutions that are broken, or that last a week or two and then get forgotten. Our kids don’t need more resolutions. They need memories made with us, that might even turn into traditions for them and their own kids someday.

Stephen Carter is a writer, husband, father, & friend. He lives in Portland with his wife Rachel, and 3 beautiful girls, Avery, Rylee, & Hattie. When he’s not reading or writing, he enjoys a local micro-brew, or a strong cup of coffee. He is passionate about literature, theology, justice, Daniel Day-Lewis movies, U2 records (but with strong reservations about No Line on the Horizon), and believes that the right words can change the world. He can be found on: Twitter: @stephenedwardc

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