As a professional and life coach, I love goal setting and all that comes with it: intentionality, accountability, positive energy, etc. My husband and I have a habit of taking a day (or sometimes longer) around the new year (sometimes it’s the end of December, other times it’s early January, much depends on childcare) to take stock and review the year that we just went through. What worked well? What habits, routines, rhythms do we want to take over into the new year? What do we want to leave behind? Do either of us have stretch goals (personally or professionally)?
The years when our children were tiny (think five and under), we honestly didn’t include them too much in this, it’s normal as the focus in this season is usually caring for the physical and emotional demands that present themselves with each developmental stage (and at those ages they are happening so quickly that most parents are just trying to keep up!). But something happens around age 5 or 6 when you can see their character emerging and your child’s schedule begins to merge with yours. For example, whether it’s school outside the home or inside the home, education now is front and center); for some parents, more formal faith training begins to take shape at a church or temple and for others, outside practices for sports or art begin to pop up on the calendar.
There is some relief in this predictability, but as any modern day parent also knows, that ‘blank space’ on the calendar which may have been filled with Saturdays to the local kids museum or lazy Sundays filled with naps and maybe a trip to the local park now can feel cluttered with birthday parties, school volunteering requests, pediatric check ups, sports games, church programs, etc. When we began to feel those growing pains we knew it was time to begin to have more of a family rhythm and routine plan…one that was flexible enough to accommodate the changes that occur with children. And as our kids are now squarely in the elementary school chapter of their lives (ages 6, 9 and 11), we can bring them alongside us in family goals and work with them to help them accomplish individual goals.
A few things that we’ve done over the past few years that our kids enjoy and now look forward to are Word of the Year, Character Growth and Personal Goals. After my husband and I take a look ourselves at our year in review and our personal and professional intentions, we discuss each child and think about where we’d like to see areas of growth. Sometimes it relates to emotional growth (ie: cultivating patience), other times it may be that a child needs to be encouraged to take on a new risk (ie: new sport or activity). We then review our financial budget and look at our calendars to see what we need to logistically plan for as well.
In the days after Christmas we ask our kids to start thinking about their Word of the Year and right before the New Year, we share them with each other, usually over a fun pancake breakfast. And sometime after we go over the year in review, what our high moments as a family were, our low points, what we want to change in the coming year, what we are excited for, etc. This year, our 2020 review was quite poignant and it was easy to focus on all that was lost (or had gotten cancelled) and so we took special care to count all the joy that had come through despite the pandemic: health and safety took on new meanings! And then we hand each kid an index card and write down ‘Character’ and ‘Personal Goal’ and help them fill those out (ie: your little ones, like my 6 year old, may need help brainstorming here but you’ll be surprised how quickly they catch on!). Because our faith tradition plays a big role in our family culture, we also include a Scripture verse that is special and unique to them. Don’t underestimate how special that this makes them feel!
So whether your family goals are simple or complex, I hope that this encourages you….we are nearly six years into doing them now and I can see the fruit that comes from fresh vision, reflection and intentionality and hope that you will experience that as well!
– Natalie d’Aubermont Thompson
Natalie is the founder of Living by the Page and Saltar Consulting and lives outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband David, three children and their newest addition, a pup named Patches. A truly global citizen, Natalie is Argentine-American and has worked, studied and volunteered in over 35 countries. She also currently serves as VP of the Board of the Children’s Literacy Network in Ann Arbor, MI.