Set a family goal this summer

Making resolutions isn’t just for the new year

As we approach the halfway mark for the calendar year, some of us may be thinking back to the resolutions that we committed to in January and feeling, well... disappointed. If this sounds like you, you aren't alone. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Scranton revealed that 23% of New Year's resolution-makers quit their resolutions after just one week, and that only 19% of people were actually able to stick to their goals long-term. Some experts recommend that people don't set just one resolution at the start of the year, but rather try to set small goals at set points throughout the year, say, monthly or quarterly.

The summer season is an excellent time to focus on resetting and reshaping resolutions. For families that have children at home from June to August, summer offers an opportunity to focus on family goals, meaning goals that involve or affect the entire family. Examples of family goals depend on an individual family's values and can range from eating more vegetables, spending more time outside, volunteering more often, saving money toward a large trip or purchase or eliminating single-use plastics.

Not convinced? Consider the benefits of setting goals as a family. Family goal-setting prompts family units to think about what matters and to name their values outright. Looking ahead ultimately helps families move forward, rather than getting stuck in cyclical day-by-day patterns. And, once the family has set a goal, working together to achieve it strengthens the family's relationships. Lastly, navigating through goals teaches children self-discipline, the value of hard work and persistence in the face of setbacks and challenges.

So how should your family go about setting summer goals? Consider the following brainstorming questions as you determine a goal that appeals to your entire family. What are your family values? Which families that you know (or see in the community) do you seek to emulate? Equally as important, which families do you not want to mimic? (This particular question can be especially telling for families trying to break intergenerational patterns of dysfunction). Finally, when trying to come up with a family goal, ask yourselves: What are your current family challenges, and what would you like to improve?

Families hoping to set summer goals ought to involve all members of the family unit. This will look different for every family as you take into account the ages of everyone living in your home, but ultimately, parents and caregivers know that children like to be considered and have agency in determining their goals for the summer. After all, it is their summer too!

Once you've narrowed down some generalized themes that your family would like to work on, it is time to set a SMART goal. SMART is a goal-setting acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. For example, if your family wanted to set a goal to eat more healthfully, a SMART goal might be to visit the farmers market once a week and/or to try a new vegetable each week. If your family wanted to save money toward a trip or a large purchase, a SMART goal might be to limit takeout orders, and/or to set aside a certain number of dollars each week.

When your family has set a SMART goal, find a place to display your progress. A white board in a common living space is a great way to display and track your family's progression, and to remind all members of the family about what is at stake. As the leaders of their families, parents and caregivers should facilitate, not dictate. This might mean anticipating obstacles while helping the family stay positive. And, of course, when working toward a summer goal with your family, be sure to schedule regular and routine check-ins, focusing on progress and not just outcomes. Figure out a way to celebrate small wins as a family.

In the end, family goal-setting can be as big or small, or as serious or lighthearted, as your family wants. Every family will differ in their summer goals, but setting goals together may help your family work together in new ways that you haven't considered.

Pamela Savage is a freelance writer living in Springfield. She plans to set a family goal with her two young sons and husband this summer.

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