Every year as the holidays wrap up, we start to focus on good habits and goal-setting for the new year ahead. Maybe you want to work out more, go to bed earlier, clean out your closet or even try to spend less time on your phone. Your children may be curious about the routine changes they see their parents implementing and may even want to participate—something that should be encouraged.
Just like adults, children thrive on healthy routines with little goals to strive toward. Setting daily habits allows kids to experience continued growth socially and emotionally by helping them develop self-regulation skills, gain responsibility and build confidence.
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How do we help our children set these reasonable, consistent routines?
A great rule of thumb is to choose a small number—just one or two goals to start for younger children and no more than four for older children. You can certainly add more as your kids achieve success with the original habit(s). But keeping a small number allows them to understand clearly and concisely the priorities they will be working toward and will enable them to stay focused.
Keep in mind that children should choose which new routines they select. Providing the opportunity for choice allows your little ones to have some autonomy with selection, which will make them more inspired to practice the habits they have chosen.
Here’s what to do when establishing healthy routines with your kids:
1. Together, make a list of potential goals using pictures for visual cues and allowing your children to pick. Some ideas include trying new foods, eating healthier snacks, enjoying more nature/outside activities, engaging in more mindfulness activities and participating in community events. You can include tasks to help out around the house, too.
2. Keep the list and photos in a visible location to serve as a reminder.
3. Consider making a chart of the habits with pictures, and don’t forget to include a completed side. Allow your children to physically move the photos into the completed section once the goal has been achieved, which will allow them to feel a sense of pride.
4. Review progress and give praise as they succeed. Offer words of encouragement when progress is delayed to help your child continue to strive for success at their chosen routine.
You and your children can start the year out in a healthy way by setting small, achievable and beneficial practices for 2022. If you’re looking for resources to help you and your children explore developmentally appropriate ways to practice good character in the year ahead, head over to Kiddie Academy’s website to download the Character Essentials Activity Book.