A new year is not only cause for celebration, it's also the perfect time to get excited about making your family's life easier and more successful.
I love the feeling of getting a fresh start at the beginning of the year. When it's time to buy a new calendar, it's also the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past twelve months and plan new ways to improve my family's life ... and my own! Here are a few of my favorites.
Create a new everyday tradition
The holiday season is when most families celebrate traditions. The one that my family treasures each year is opening new pajamas together on Christmas Eve. I choose a theme each Christmas, and we all get matching ones, regardless of everyone’s ages. It’s a blast, especially when we take a family photo under the tree in our PJs, which range from whimsical footed onesies to jammies that light up or make noise.
Find ways to celebrate the ordinary, everyday moments you spend together.
Once the hustle and bustle of this exciting (and exhausting) time of year is over, however, its the perfect time to focus on your family. Find ways to celebrate the ordinary, everyday moments you spend together. You might choose to begin a Sunday brunch tradition for the first Sunday of the month. Or, you can grab your new calendar and schedule a few electronic-free evenings several times a year where you order pizza and play board games together. Your new tradition can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like. To succeed in making the practice a true family tradition, all you need to do is be consistent.
Traditions, no matter the time of year, become special rituals your family will cherish and perhaps pass on to their own kids one day.
RELATED: 6 Ways to Create Family Traditions
Establish a daily routine
One of the best gifts you can give your family is to establish solid daily routines. Here's an example. If you find that you and your child are always stressed when it comes to getting organized and rushing out the door in the morning, form a new habit. Have your child pick out his clothing the night before school. Then, have him organize his backpack and place it by the front door. Imagine how much simpler both your morning routines will be!
Start with one area that your family has the most difficulty with—like the morning rush—and pick one or two ways you can improve on that.
You don’t have to go crazy and build in a dozen routines at once. Start with one area that your family has the most difficulty with—like the morning rush—and pick one or two ways you can improve on that. Raising a brood of eight kids meant I had to be on my game each morning. Otherwise, one or more kids would be scurrying to find shoes, homework assignments, or would dilly-dally at the breakfast table and almost miss the bus. The only way to keep our household calm every day was to make sure everyone was ready the night before.
Perhaps your kids are getting to bed later than you’d like, if so, work on a bedtime routine so they’ll be tucked in earlier and catching their much-needed Zs. Bonus: you’ll have a few extra minutes to yourself each night. Maybe your weekends are a free-for-all and you’d like to create more structure for your family when school’s not in session. Find a few quiet moments where you can analyze the flow of your family’s schedule—or the lack thereof—and incorporate a new routine to help you have your best year possible.
RELATED: How Routines Will Improve Your Life
Take the empty jar challenge
I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for decades. Jotting down five things I’m grateful for every day is a terrific tool to help me stay positive, despite how difficult and crazy my life as the mom of eight can be.
You can start this challenge any time of the year, but if you begin in January you can enjoy reading these special memories together as a family on New Year’s Eve.
Last year I was introduced to a wonderful new way to focus on the good things happening in my family’s life—the empty jar challenge. Similar to a gratitude journal, the big difference is that the entire family participates. I leave an empty Mason jar on the kitchen counter with some colorful pads of paper and pens, and when something good happens, we write it down and put it in the empty jar. Soon, the jar starts to fill up with a collection of heartwarming, funny, sometimes goofy, memories from each of us.
You can start this challenge any time of the year, but if you begin it in January, you can enjoy reading these special memories together as a family on New Year’s Eve. It’s a great way to reflect on the encouraging moments that happened to each of you and a positive way to start the new year.
Begin meal planning
There are two places parents hang out the most—in their car shuttling kids back and forth to appointments and activities and in the kitchen preparing, serving, and cleaning up snacks and meals.
Until your child hits that rite of passage with a driver’s license of her own, you’ll likely have job security as her chauffeur. But if you give meal planning a try, you can drastically reduce the amount of time you spend in the kitchen and save money as well.
In my recent episode, Why Meal Planning is Essential to a Happier Family Life, you’ll learn a new approach to family meal planning that’s not daunting or overwhelming. The best part about meal planning is that my family never hounds me about what’s for dinner—I post a calendar of meals each month so it’s easily accessible. We have tried and true staple meals that I rely on when I’m short on time, but I’ve also become more creative because I have the time to try out new recipes. Meal planning allows us to share more family meals. With the money I save being prepared in advance, we have one take-out meal each week, which guarantees me a night off!
If you’re tired of the same ho-hum lifestyle, make this the year you seek out adventure. It’s so easy to get into a rut when we juggle the many responsibilities we have throughout the year. We can forget to get creative with our free time.
Go crazy making a list of some exciting new outings you and your family can enjoy together.
Have a brainstorming party and serve your family’s favorite treats, and go crazy making a list of some exciting new outings you and your family can enjoy together. Your list could include whale watching, snorkeling, hiking a mountain, camping, cooking international recipes each weekend, or horseback riding.
My family is excited to be going zip-lining together during our spring vacation. We’re also exploring raising bees to make honey!
Share your smile
I saved my favorite tip for last—smiling! Give your smile an extra-big workout this year. One of the best gifts we can give our friends and family is sharing our smile. It’s free, easy, and can bring unexpected joy to someone who is struggling or having a bad day.
If you’d like to send some friendly encouragement to your loved one’s inbox every day, check out smiletherapy.com. This fun and inspirational service delivers daily positive messages to start your day out on a cheerful note. There’s a free trial for 30 days, and then you can subscribe for $5 per month. I gift a subscription to my college kids, and they look forward to their daily dose of inspiration, especially when they’re homesick or tackling exams.