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Resolutions to help keep your family strong

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Resolutions to help keep your family strong

It’s January — and everywhere you look there’s talk of resolutions: “Get into your skinny jeans.” “Learn French.” “Complete a marathon by March”. But what counts most in your life? For most of us, the answer is family. So we asked a number of experts to share their advice for resolutions that will help strengthen that all-important relationship. The good news? It’s a lot easier than getting back into those skinny jeans.

1. I will form a true parenting team with my partner.

Being a team is critical at every stage of parenting, says psychotherapist Anna M. Ranieri, MBA, Ph.D., co-author of “How Can I Help? What You Can (and Can’t) Do to Counsel a Friend, Colleague or Family Member with a Problem.” Whether it’s the terrible twos or the potentially worrisome teen years, all ?hands are required on deck, she says. “If you’re a single parent, be consistent. If? you’re a couple, agree to agree, or any kid worth his salt will drive a? wedge right through you,” she says.

2. I’ll (try to — most of the time) remember to live in the moment.

Value these years — and the ones to come, says Ranieri. “The exhausting days? of infancy will never return, but you’ll remember the feel of a warm baby in? your arms. Adolescence will have its challenges, but enjoy them if you can.” And remember, it’s not over when it’s over, she adds. “A satisfying relationship with your adult ?children awaits you. So resolve to treasure every stage — once you can ?catch your breath!”

3. I’ll establish a “no gadgets at mealtime” rule.

With this rule, “all family members keep their cell phones, tablets, etc. away from the dinner table, and the TV stays off, so that a meaningful conversation can take place,” suggests Robert Nickell, a father of six and a parenting blogger at Daddyscrubs Blog. (Check out his other tips at This is one place where setting an example is really important. Don’t ban your teen’s texting from the table and then sneak a peek at your work emails while passing the peas.

4. I’ll remember that I’m being watched.

“Remember that you’re the role model(s),” says Ranieri. “Your kids observe you, consciously or not. If you’re looking happy, fulfilled and engaged in life, that’s what they come to believe that life is like.” Are you planning outings with friends? Reading for pleasure? Taking an adult-ed class now and then just to learn something new? It’s important to show kids that learning and growing don’t stop at a certain age.

5. I’ll plan fun outdoor activities for my family

“There’s no better way to bond as a family then by getting away from all the pressure and stressors that are part of our daily lives and reconnecting with nature, ourselves and each other,” says Nickell. “Whether that’s camping, an afternoon of snow shoeing, a long hike in the woods, heading to the skating rink, or biking around the local lakes or trails, being active, outside and together will bring you closer.”

6. I’ll remember that I’m a parent, not a buddy.

“Your child needs to know you are in charge in order to feel safe and secure,” says licensed family therapist Lori Freson, M.A., MFT. “That means sometimes your child will be angry and upset with you. You need to learn to deal with that unless you want an obnoxious child.” (Don’t you love how she doesn’t beat around the bush?)

7. I’ll say “yes” whenever I can.

“Parents have to use the word no a lot, and kids grow up with a lot of rules and parameters,” says Nickell. “Before saying no, ask yourself if it really matters if your son or daughter wears a mismatched outfit for the day or insists on a hairstyle that really doesn’t suit him or her. Save no for when it really matters.”

8. I’ll encourage my family to have dinner together often — but I won’t stress if it’s not every night.

Have you been thinking of setting an “every night” dinner rule? You may be setting yourself up for failure. But four times a week? That’s do-able for most families, and the benefits are real, says licensed psychotherapist Christina Steinorth, author of “Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships.” “Multiple studies show that children who come from homes where there are family meals do better at school, have better social skills and are less likely to develop eating disorders,” says Steinorth. “Family meals are an excellent way to teach about social skills and nutrition in a non-lecture type of way,” she adds. “But the best benefit that comes from family meals is that it gives you a chance to connect with one another in a relaxed and enjoyable way.”

9. I’ll teach my children good health habits — and set a good example myself.

“Stay as healthy as a person and a parent as possible,” advises psychotherapist Mary Jo?Rapini, MEd, LPC, co-author of “Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About ?Health, Sex or Whatever.” “Talk about lifestyle with your kids, and help them understand the ?importance of choosing a healthy lifestyle.” There are many ways to model healthy behavior, both mental and physical: Get regular exercise (biking with the kids, perhaps?). Avoid playing games on the computer or hanging out on Facebook all evening. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Stay active socially and make plans with extended family and friends. Talk through problems before they become larger. What you do says as least as much to your kids as what you say.

10. I won’t fall into “parent hysteria,” even if all the parents around me have swallowed the Kool-Aid.

Don’t let the media, or other parents, get your knickers in a twist about everything from getting into the “right” preschool to stressing too much over college admissions, says Ranieri. “Plenty of people lead meaningful and gratifying ?lives without going to private school, owning their own pony or attending ?Harvard. Relax and look at what’s really important in life.”

Kathy Sena, the mother of a 17-year-old son, is a freelance journalist specializing in parenting topics. Visit her website at