Happy New Year! January is a good time to reflect on what happened in the past year and also have a fresh start for the new year. One year might pass by quickly for adults, but for a child a year can be a long fulfilling period of leaning so many skills and reaching lots of milestones. The skills and milestones that your child hasn’t quite reached can definitely be part of the goals for 2014!
During Tasty Tuesdays in January, we will talk about how to make healthy goals for you and for your child. “Healthy” could literary mean your physical health, such as eating more vegetables and exercising, but making healthy goals can also be applied to other kinds of goals that might be difficult to achieve. Achieving things that you haven’t been able to do can be very stressful. Making emotionally healthy goals is also an important aspect of this conversation, so feel free to bring you own snack and talk about setting goals for the new year!
Set achievable goals for you and your child.
Whatever goals you each have, they should be clear, achievable (try not to make things too easy, though), and measurable. You can also make smaller goals for each month to achieve a big goal for the year of 2014. Regardless of whether they are separate goals or a goal you each contribute to, you can be a role model for working on goals and gaining skills or habits that together you want to acquire.
Identify barriers that prevent you and your child from achieving goals.
Think about what makes it difficult to achieve the goals that you made. Maybe you just don’t have enough time to go to the gym. Maybe your child has set a goal of eating spinach, but he just can’t stand the texture of it. Whatever it is, it’s really important to know the obstacles and think how you can overcome those challenges. When you are talking to your child about his goals, let him tell you what the challenges are, instead of making assumptions yourself. What your child tells you may not make a lot of sense, and that’s okay.
You can also incorporate the goal setting process in a fun game! My colleague, Milo Dickerson, made a board game that you and your child can decorate and play with. In this game, you can write your goal and two obstacles to achieve the goal. You can have fun by decorating the sheet while thinking about the goal and barriers, and play the game to remind you about the goal. Having a serious sit-down conversation about goals and obstacles can sometimes be a little boring and stressful for kids. So, have fun with it as much as you can!
Set healthy rewards for reaching your goals.
Rewards can be very motivating when working toward a goal. However, using food for a reward – or for a punishment for that matter – is not recommended. One of the biggest reasons is because those reward food items are often junk food. I’m not suggesting that you never eat junks and sweet treats. In fact, not-so-healthy foods can actually fit into your family’s diet when they are balanced with other healthy foods. However, by making junk food a “reward,” you are at risk of sending the wrong message about healthy food choices to your child. Some people may say that they are using healthy food for a reward. However, using healthy food as a reward is still not recommended because healthy foods should not be an occasional treat. Instead, they should be part of your everyday diet!
Healthy non-food rewards can be an activity that you can do together as a family, and it doesn’t have to be something that costs you a lot of money. A healthy reward should be healthy for your wallet, too! Children can be satisfied with simple rewards, such as reading an extra book for the bedtime routine and getting a certification or medal for the achievement.
Now go ahead and make a goal for your healthy 2014. I hope you have a wonderful new year with a health body and mind!