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Families Should Make New Year's Resolutions Too

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2009-12-26 06:32:11     
Wake Forest University

New Year's is usually a time for making personal resolutions, but families can use the turning of the calendar year to set goals too. "Like merchants, families should take inventory," says Dr. Samuel Gladding, a licensed professional counselor with a specialty in family counseling and chair of the Department of Counseling at Wake Forest University.

"Family resolutions can be fun and fulfilling in that they help you as a family see the year ahead," says Gladding, who has written several books on family and group counseling. "Making resolutions encourages families to be proactive rather than reactive. Many families get caught up in comfortable routines, but sometimes they're not growth-promoting."

Gladding suggests having a family meeting on New Year's Day to take stock of what would make life better for everyone. Family meetings should be held regularly throughout the year, but January 1 is a good time to start the tradition for families who are not already sitting down to talk on a regular basis. Here he offers some tips on how to make the most of the meetings:

* Eliminate distractions: When holding a family meeting, there should be no diversions. Turn the television off and sit in a circle -- around the table or on the floor -- where everyone is on the same level.
* Give everyone a chance to talk: The family meeting is a time to talk over issues, set goals for the year and to do some practical planning. "In a family meeting, everyone should have a voice," Gladding says.
* Set priorities: "Are certain things building up in terms of frustrations or are family members involved in too many activities that aren't meaningful? If so, address those at the start of the year and revisit them if needed during the year," Gladding says.
* Establish goals: Use the family meeting to set goals such as eating dinner together more frequently or setting aside more time for favorite family activities, he recommends. "This is a good opportunity to decide what activities are most important and figure out how to work more of them in," Gladding says.
* Put it on the calendar: Marking some things on the calendar is also a good idea. "Families can look at the calendar and put things in place that are traditions," Gladding says. For his family, that involves marking off a week for a vacation at a favorite beach and choosing a weekend for going with his wife and three sons to the local water park. Once those things are planned, the family can look for new adventures and opportunities.

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