By Staff Writer
New Year's is a natural time for people to take stock of the year and set goals for the next year. As parents, we all do our best, but there's always room for improvement. While you're making New Year's resolutions about losing weight, saving money and exercising, also consider resolving to be the best parent you can be.
Get Healthier - Together. Research has repeatedly shown that families that eat together stay together. They are also healthier, more connected, and more successful in school and at work. Make a point to eat dinner together every night and take walks or engage in active play as a family.
Spend More Quality Time. Family rituals foster togetherness and open the lines of communication. Plan family trips, outings, art or home improvement projects and other activities together or volunteer as a family. In the New Year, set a goal to learn something new together; for example, study a new language, take cooking classes or start a family book club.
Monitor Your Teens' Online Activity. The Internet can be a dangerous place for teens. If you haven't already done so, move your child's computer into a common area of the home (such as the kitchen or living room), set parental controls and monitor how much time your teen spends on the computer each night. While the Internet can be educational and keep your teen in touch with friends and family, it also raises a number of concerns such as teen bullying, Internet addiction and online predators.
Talk to Your Kids. Every parent wants their teens to come to them if they have a problem. But you have to open the lines of communication and establish trust before your teens will feel comfortable sharing with you. There are a number of talks every parent should have with their teens, including frequent conversations about sex, smoking and adolescent substance abuse. Find out all you can about your child - their likes and dislikes, who their friends are and where they spend their time.
Be a Good Role Model. You are your child's first teacher of right and wrong. Your children learn a lot about your priorities by watching you and the resolutions you set. If you smoke, drink, use drugs or engage in other destructive behaviors, resolve to make changes in your own life, and you'll benefit both yourself and your kids.
Set and Enforce Rules. Teens crave independence, but they don't yet have the mature judgment necessary to set their own boundaries. Parents still play a vital role in establishing rules and enforcing them consistently so that teens feel safe and have structure to their lives. Also remember to praise your kids for positive behavior and balance your rules with plenty of love and support.
Be a Good Listener. Often, in an effort to prove they are older and wiser, parents succumb to lecturing and judging. This year, take a new approach and do more listening than talking. Ask questions and actively hear what your teens have to say.
Catch Your Teen Being Good. Parents spend a lot of time saying no to their teens. In the year to come, make an effort to balance discipline with catching your child doing the right thing.
Get Help if Your Teen Is Struggling. If every year you work to become a better parent and your teen continues to fall deeper into trouble, don't be ashamed to get help. There are therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness therapy programs and residential treatment centers for teens who are struggling with substance abuse, defiance and other emotional and behavioral issues. Knowing when to reach out for help is a sign of good parenting in a very difficult situation, and may be exactly what your teen needs to make real changes in the year to come.
Change can happen year-round, but New Year's marks the end of one thing and the beginning of another. Take this opportunity to make the new year your family's best ever.