herald

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Easy resolutions to boost your family life

TRADITIONALLY many of us look at January 1 as the opportunity for a fresh new beginning. We use it to quit smoking, start diets or join the gym. We see it as a tangible new start where we can set about improving ourselves with goals and ambitions for a new year that stretches ahead, filled with promise.

Resolutions are generally all about self-improvement, but for 2013, why not consider making a resolution that will improve your whole family's lives, and not just your own? From cooking to hugging to swimming, take inspiration from these 10 suggestions below.

Learn something new

Few of us are blessed with perfect students, and, for many, homework proves a real challenge. What better way to show your support then by going back to school yourself? Sign up for a class in 2013, whether it's a new language or skill like photography, playing an instrument or sewing. Let your children see that learning can be fun, and that it doesn't need to be done under duress. Better still, empower them by asking for their help when you are practising your lessons.

Go swimming together

Most parents recognise the importance of taking their children to swimming lessons. It's an essential life skill that may go on to save your child's life someday. While most children love water some dislike the hassle of swimming lessons and it can be a challenge to get them into the pool each week.

So, for 2013, vow to go swimming together as a family every so often. Rather than just drop them off at lessons, get into your swimsuit, jump in with them, dive, play, race and splash -- basically, be a kid for an hour with your kids.

Hug more

Hugs are good for us. They release a hormone called oxytocin which makes us feel more relaxed and content. In our house, we have a tradition called a Family Hug, where both of us scoop up the three kids and sing "Family hug, family hug, family hug" to the tune of "Here we go, here we go, here we go!" The kids love this 60-second bonding ritual and often request a Family Hug out of the blue. I recommend starting a hugging ritual that leaves everyone feeling warm and fuzzy afterwards.

Teach the kids to cook

Childhood obesity is a real problem and we, as parents, are the ones with the power to turn these frightening statistics around. You don't need to be Nigella or Rachel Allen to give your kids great tasting food. Whether you're a decent cook or hopeless case you should click on www.breakingeggs.com in 2013. This brilliant online cookery show is for parents and children and shows Connemara chef Cliodhna Prendergast cooking real food at home with her three young children.

Exercise more

There's more to being healthy than eating well, and exercise is key. Children follow example, so if they see mum or dad slumped in front of the TV seven nights a week then that normalises laziness. On the other hand, if they know dad goes for a run on a Saturday morning or Mum does Zumba during the week then they grow up accepting that exercise is a fun and normal hobby. Let them try karate or gymnastics or skateboarding until they find something they love. But be the first to lead by example. Make 2013 the year you commit to regular exercise and invest in your health.

Explore your county

Invest in your family's wellbeing by spending more quality time together in the New Year. Family time doesn't have to cost money, and shouldn't simply be a trip to the cinema where you all sit in the dark without talking. Take a leaf out of older generations' books and make day trips your modus operandi for 2013. From a DART trip around Dublin Bay to a trek in the mountains, a windswept walk on a favourite beach or visit to a museum or art gallery, try to enjoy a new experience every few weeks. The weather may be too cold to contemplate picnics, but as soon as spring kicks in break out the packed lunches and make your family trips even more memorable.

Get to know

your cousins

Never underestimate the value of your extended family. Emigration has, once again, torn families apart, so if you're lucky enough to have siblings living in Ireland then make 2013 the year you spend more time together. Your children will learn a lot about family and relationships by the way you interact with your parents, brothers and sisters. Sow the seeds of love now and let them see that a brother or sister is a gift for life. Give your children the opportunity to know their cousins and encourage them to build special friendships with their extended family.

Play board games

When the obsession with the new Wii, PlayStation and Nintendo has worn off, why not introduce a new family night? Once a fortnight switch off the TV, consoles, mobiles and laptops and sit down together with the family's favourite board games for some good, old-fashioned entertainment. From traditional card games to Connect 4, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Cranium and Pop to the Shops (for the little ones), board games can provide hours of fun and laughter. If the tech-heads object to this, then it's up to you to show them how much fun can be had.

One-on-one time

Resolve to indulge each of your kids with a little one-on-one time. Pick a fun activity you know each child will love and make the day all about them. Whether it's shopping, going to a match, cycling or a trip to the zoo, let them become the centre of mum or dad's world for the day. Be sure all siblings get taken on an outing of equal appeal and try to do this a few times a year.

If in doubt, bake a cake!

Kids of all ages love cakes. Most adults do, too. If you've broken every other resolution on this list, set aside an hour and bake a cake together. (Baking is surprisingly simple, but if it terrifies you then buy a pack of foolproof cake mix) Sharing warm cake from the oven (in moderation, of course) will guarantee you Parent of the Year status for another year.

A perfect resolution.

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