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Meaningful New Years Rituals for Families

Meaningful New Years Rituals for Families

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” – Brad Paisley

Children are fascinated by the passage of time, which seems magical to them. They LOVE the idea of a new year, a new beginning, a celebration of life. And so do adults! We can all use the momentum of a fresh start.

Unfortunately, in the United States, New Years isn’t usually a family holiday. Too often it’s an adults-only event, more focused on alcohol than reflection. But why not celebrate the new year so that it’s meaningful for both the children and the adults in your family?

Try these simple, inspiring ideas to give your kids both roots and wings as they head into the new year.

1. Say goodbye to 2023 with love and appreciation.

Even in hard times there is so much to be grateful for. Go around the table and have each person in the family say what their favorite thing about the old year was, savoring together with gratitude the best moments from the past year. Also ask your kids what they appreciated in the past year about themselves, about each other, and about their lives.

2. Leave the past behind as you greet the future.

If you’re like most people, you’re carrying some baggage you don’t need, whether it’s exhaustion, self-judgment, recurring emotional patterns of fear or anger, or simply clutter. Ask everyone in your family what one burden they might be able to leave behind as the year turns. You can even write things down on small pieces of paper and burn what you’re saying goodbye to. (Use a fireplace or a candle set in an iron skillet)

This is a cleansing ritual that viscerally releases stuck emotions, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself tearing up, yawning, or feeling more emotional than you would have expected.

(If your child says she wants to leave behind “my brother” or “homework” you can respond by validating while not blaming the brother or the homework. So, for instance, you might empathize: “You are really having a hard time with your brother lately, aren’t you?” — and then promise to work with your child to help them make what seems like a burden into a better part of their life in the coming year.)

3. Finish by asking what everyone is looking forward to in the New Year.

Anticipating happy events makes us happier — and it enhances brain development!

4. Let the kids stay up until midnight.

If that’s a recipe for disaster for little ones the next day, you can always change the clocks to midnight at a more reasonable hour.  Toast the New Year with sparkling apple juice in plastic goblets and open the front door to let the good luck in. Take the kids outside to blow horns with you before tucking them into bed.

5. Every New Years day, take a family photo.

Don’t obsess to make these perfect. They’re intended to be a slice of life. Frame them and put them on your wall. As they grow up, your kids and their friends will love admiring the way everyone has changed over the years — but not as much as you will!

6. Discuss and model how to make actual change.

Most New Years resolutions fail because they’re goals that are tough, and even the momentum of the new year isn’t enough to keep us on track. If you only know vaguely where you’re headed, and you don’t have a plan to get there, you’re bound to end up somewhere else.

So start small and specific. Have a plan to measure your success. Give yourself the support you need to actually keep your resolution.

So instead of “I will stop yelling,” you might start with “I will notice when I’m yelling and close my mouth. To do this, I will ask my family to signal me when I’m raising my voice, and I will commit to turning away and breathing deeply for a few minutes, no matter how mad I am. I will check in daily with my family about whether I am yelling less, using a Respectful Voice Chart.

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Write your resolution down. Post it where you will read it daily!  This is critical: Revise your plan as necessary to give yourself more support if you stall out. And be sure to give yourself credit for every step in the right direction!

7. Take a few private moments to lavish a blizzard of appreciation on yourself

for all the things you’ve done right this year. Forgive yourself for the times you missed the mark, and let them go. From that place of self-love, say thank you for all the large and small miracles in your life. Open yourself to receiving more in the coming year.

May your New Year be filled with every blessing for you and your family. I’m sending you love and appreciation for all the love you create in the world, just by being you.

Dr. Laura Markham is the author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life and Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and more, – you can visit her at ahaparenting.com.

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Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash