Family New Year’s resolutions: Unplug, and give to others

family resolutions, volunteering, Families Giving Back
Make a conscious effort to sit down together for meals more often. iStock photo.

We live in a time in which our data plans, Netflix accounts and smartphones are among our greatest interests and biggest distractions. Although I’m a fan of and an avid user of technology, when it comes to family time, I have to set boundaries.

This year, I think it would be nice for us all to get back to focusing more on the small moments — the simple things that have been linked to creating a huge impact on individuals and families alike. With the start of the New Year, I’d like to propose a “res-o-lutionary” idea: Let’s unplug and do more together.

As adults, we set personal resolutions. But why not set family resolutions, too? Getting our children involved not only will create more family time, it will promote their interests. Let’s set New Year’s goals that create quality time together and give back to the community. Here are five ideas for family resolutions to consider.

1. Unplug

Before smartphones, it was easier for us to distance ourselves from work and friends and easier to be in the moment. Research shows that unplugging improves relationships, helps develop social skills, enhances our sleep and reduces anxiety. These benefits are especially important to a child’s growth and development.

Meet with your family and figure out when “switching off” works, whether it’s during a certain time of the day, week or month. At my house, electronics are not allowed during mealtime. At first, this was difficult (for me as well), but now it’s routine, and it makes for some great conversation. In addition, studies have shown that just having the TV on during dinner can disrupt the benefits of a sit-down meal together.

2. Commit to more family meals

This long-standing tradition now is viewed almost as old-fashioned. Life can be hectic, making it hard to eat dinner as a family every night. Make a conscious effort to sit down together more often. Family dinners (other mealtimes work, too) give everyone time to talk and catch up.

Ask simple questions as conversation starters to talk about social issues, such as hunger or homelessness. For example, ask your kids if they are hungry, and then describe what it would be like and how it would feel if they weren’t able to eat dinner that night. Or, ask your kids whether they helped anyone at school that day and how it made them feel.

3. Plan more family activities

This is a fun one for all! Have a discussion about possible trips or outings and start scheduling Family Fun Days. These can be once a week, once a month — whatever works for your family. Be sure to let everyone express his or her ideas. This helps your family make long-lasting memories, and it gives everyone the chance to engage with one another rather than with their electronic devices.

4. Read more, apart or together

This is just a good idea in general. In today’s fast-paced world, we need to seek wholesome and beneficial ways to stimulate our brains. Reading is a great way to learn and talk about kindness, gratitude, helping others and such issues as interacting with the elderly, hunger and homelessness. The Families Giving Back website has book recommendations for  children on a variety of topics.

5. Volunteer or donate together

Giving back and helping to spread awareness about the needs in your community helps create compassionate and socially conscious kids. In addition, volunteering together brings families closer and serves as a great excuse to get off your phones and be present. Your family can choose to donate money (any amount helps) or time each month to a nonprofit you mutually decide on.

Keep it simple

Resolutions you agree to as a family don’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, but all the efforts will build over the years and make a lasting impact.

A quick word of advice to my fellow parents: Lead by example. Regardless of his or her age, your child is more likely to understand the goals your family sets if you take the lead. Don’t be tempted to check your phone for work emails or shoot out a quick text during family meals; you’re the role model!

Throw yourself headfirst into each family outing, big or small. Be present and, most important, enjoy every second, because they go by quickly.