Parenting Resolutions for the New Year & Beyond
A pediatrician’s personal advice for a year of love, growth, and happiness for you and your family
by Steve Silvestro, MD @zendocsteve
You can also listen to this article as a podcast on your favorite podcast app or click on the player below:
If you grew up in the 80s and 90s like me,
you might remember a song that was briefly popular in 1999 called “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).” I’ve always thought of it as the “Always Wear Sunscreen” song. It consisted of filmmaker and musician Baz Luhrmann reading out dozens of life lessons against a backdrop of a chill, funky beat.
On the one hand, it was surprising that it was such a hit on the radio—it sounded nothing like the Britney Spears or Ricky Martin songs that filled the airwaves. But it struck a chord because so many of the pearls of wisdom rang true for many of us, no matter how old we were.
For this episode, I hope you’ll indulge me as I step into those big shoes and try to do the same, but for us now that we’re parents. I’m breaking two of my own rules with this—I don’t usually love “do this & don’t that” lists, and I’m not usually fond of New Year’s Resolutions, preferring instead to make and work on new goals throughout the year.
But I hope that this will strike a chord with you, and that if you can stick to just a few of these resolutions, you and your family will have a wonderful year to come.
You can listen to this set to music (just like the sunscreen song!) on your favorite podcast app or in the player above.
To the parents of 2020,
The science of health and wellness, and opinions and trends in parenting seem to change every few years. And despite having been trained to revere science, over ten years of caring for thousands of children and over twelve years of raising my own, I’ve come to recognize the value of things that aren’t taught in books. I will share some of this advice with you now.
- No more catastrophizing. What your child is doing in this moment isn’t necessarily dooming her to a lifelong problem. You’re not the same person you were five, ten, or twenty years ago—your child will learn to grow, too.
- Punt the kids outside more.
- Start regularly scheduled family meetings.
- Accept that not every parenting decision will have a huge impact on your kids. You’ve heard the idea that a butterfly in Africa flaps its wings and the weather in New York changes. It’s easy to get stuck on the idea that every choice you make, even the small ones, can have a huge impact on your kids’ future. But the weather in New York that butterfly made—it’s going to change again in a few hours. No storm lasts forever. Tomorrow, you have the chance to try again.
- Let this be the year you accept that caring for yourself **is** a key part of caring for your kids.
- Say “YES” to new adventures.
- Your children need you to believe in them—so do, and show them that you do. Trust that they can succeed, even at hard things. Your belief that they can lets them believe it, too.
- Teach your kids how to cook.
- Eat more plants. Try this—once a week, go to the grocery store and pick out one new fruit or veggie & google how to eat it.
- Don’t worry about making your kids grind through the slog of writing thank you cards. Instead, teach them how to truly say a heartfelt “thank you.”
- Choose your battles—and hold firm in the ones that matter.
- Tell your kids more stories of when you were growing up. Better still, if your kids’ grandparents are able to do so, have them tell your kids stories of when **they** were growing up. Your kids will cherish the experience.
- To riff on Lin-Manuel Miranda: Talk less, listen more.
- Download a constellation app, pick a night when bedtime doesn’t matter, and lie with your kids gazing up at the stars. Let them feel small in the vastness of the universe.
- Learn to apologize & model to your kids the proper way to do it. It’s okay for them to see you admit to your mistakes—it shows them that they can, too.
- Encourage reading, but don’t fuss too much about what your kids read. Some of the most creative people I know devour comic books and romance novels.
- Have a “yes” day.
- Know that most of the things we worry about never end up happening at all. Prepare for things that make sense, but choose to live your life without unnecessary fear. Your kids are watching and they’ll gain their strength from you.
- Create a family motto together and display it somewhere special in your home.
- Explore your town. Step into the shops you’ve always driven past. Hike the trails, explore under bridges, learn your town’s history. Let your kids know and appreciate where they’ve grown up.
- Let music fill your home.
- Get a houseplant and tell your kids it’s their job to water it. This is a simple way to teach responsibility and the importance of caring for living things.
- Start a “Jar of Awesome.” Write down fun, kind, or sweet memories as they occur, store them in a jar in a special place, and read through the awesome memories you’ve collected at the end of each year.
- That thing you’ve been dreaming about? Make it happen. Your kids’ best role model is you—and there’s no better way to teach them to accomplish their goals than by achieving your own.
- Teach your daughters **and** your sons about the accomplishments of strong women and others who’ve been marginalized throughout history. It’s not only a lesson in resilience, it’s also a reminder that there’s always more work to be done in the fight for equality.
- Acquaint your kids with the wise words of Mick Jagger: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”
- When your kids draw a picture, instead of asking, “What is it?” try saying: “Tell me about it.” Marvel at the story your child tells.
- Get out of your kids’ way. Our children need guidance, but they don’t need hand-holding.
- Sing “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again” so many times it gets permanently embedded in your kids’ brains.
- Read together, no matter how old your kids are.
- Subscribe to The Child Repair Guide Podcast on your favorite podcast app, and find me @zendocsteve on Instagram and at youtube.com/drstevesilvestro
- And of course, always wear sunscreen.
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