When we think of some of the more common and popular New Year’s resolutions that seem to be promoted in mainstream media, they may seem a bit shallow, vague, or out of reach.
Look better, be more productive, work harder, be happier!
And yet, unfortunately for most people, these resolutions are forgotten a week or so into the new year. This can be especially discouraging for teens.
Instead of setting unclear, unattainable resolutions, we suggest using the spirit of a new year as the foundation for a better future for your and your family. How? Discuss with your teen the importance of setting healthy, fulfilling goals that are sustainable. Talk about how small changes now can lead to big differences in their personal, social, and emerging professional lives.
Here are some goals you and your teen can work on together for a happier, healthier new year.
Get Better Sleep
It should be no surprise that growing teen bodies require a higher quality sleep. Just about every part of the body experiences changes during sleep, and the brain and body slow down so that powerful healing, recovery, and rejuvenation can takes place.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, teens need about 9 to 9 ½ hours of sleep a night. This is actually more sleep than grade school children need! As teens enter a new stage of cognitive maturation, the extra sleep helps support their developing brains.
The holiday break probably disrupted sleep patterns in a lot of ways – no school, holiday parties, visiting family, and less restrictive bed times are some of the common culprits. But as we begin the new year, it’s important to get back (or start) a routine that will ensure your teen is getting enough quality sleep.
Getting started is easy: Simply start by having an open conversation with your teen about the importance of sleep and how it will positively impact their moods, energy, and emotional and mental wellbeing.
Next, help them create ground rules and routines that feel challenging yet doable. Set a time to unplug from electronics. Then dim the lights, lower the temperature in the house by a couple degrees, and create a relaxing atmosphere that they can settle into. It’s also an excellent time to meditate and reflect on the day (more on this in a moment).
While it’s not always easy with teens, be firm with the bedtime and don’t allow any tech into the bedrooms if it can be avoided. As with most changes, there will be resistance…we’re talking about a teenager, after all. Be patient and calm as the routine is being established. Don’t get into a power struggle right before bed where both of you will be too wound up to fall asleep.
Instead of being a constant authoritarian, get your teen to see the benefits of this new routine. Ask if there are any changes in concentration, energy, or mood throughout the day. Check in with your teen each morning and track how this experience is going for them.
Self-Reflection by Meditating & Journaling
Encourage your teen to spend some time each day in quiet self-reflection. In the moments of meditation and/or journaling, your teen begins a deeper dive into self-discovery. Slowly, it becomes an opportunity for understanding how the outer and inner worlds are affecting thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
These bits of self-discovery and understanding can have a huge impact on emotional intelligence, self-esteem, and deepening the spiritual connection.
In a world filled with distractions, however, encouraging your teen to spend some quiet time with her own thoughts can be a challenge. Meditation takes patience and practice. Sitting quietly and observing thoughts can be overwhelming initially.
Here’s some good news…there’s no right way to meditate or journal. And there are so many resources out there to make both of these activities easier to learn and practice. Encourage your teen to try different types of meditation or use journaling prompts.
Starting small is also helpful. Set a goal for your teen to choose 5 minutes of either meditating or journaling each day. Slowly build from there.
Working self-reflection into the evening routine is a great way to establish two great habits at once. The calming effects of meditation can help your teen fall asleep faster, and journaling enables your teen to take thoughts out of the mind and putting them elsewhere, which may decrease worry and stress at bedtime.
Give Back to the Community
Being well-rested and more self-aware is a great start! But there is a power in being a part of something bigger than yourself and developing a deeper connection to your community.
Volunteering and community service are beneficial for teens on so many levels. Not only are they helping those in need, but they also get to see firsthand how their actions can impact others. It is also an opportunity to change perspectives, develop interpersonal skills, and interact positively with peers.
Plus, it looks great on a resume or college application, of course!
Encourage your teen to join a group or community service project that aligns with his interests. For example, if your teen loves to read, you two could explore opportunities to become a reading tutor.
Luckily, there are many great community service projects in the area. We have a list that we keep updated on our Volunteer Page.
Making the Goals Stick
You’re probably imagining your teen rolling her eyes as you mention these goals.
Sit quietly? Unplug from my device? Go and do what now?
Change isn’t easy. It’s not like flicking on a light switch. Start small. Plant some seeds. Set a goal your teen will enjoy accomplishing. Reward the accomplishment. Build from there.
Remember: At this point in life, your teen is developing an identity. Avoid lecturing or preaching to your child. Present information in ways your teen can arrive at his own conclusions and feel empowered to take on these goals themselves.
With a little patience, creativity, and nurturing, it’s certainly possible for your teen to be enjoying the rewards of these goals throughout the year.
Now go enjoy enjoy your 2022!