From losing weight to getting organized, many people to think about ways they can improve their life, health and overall happiness in the beginning of a new year. New Years’ resolutions are pretty popular and so are breaking resolutions. Many fitness centers tend to be packed in January with people who have resolved to get fit and lose weight, but by March it becomes pretty easy to find empty machines in the gym.
If you a parent of a teen who has made a new year’s resolution, you face an interesting dilemma.
If your teen made a new year’s resolution or decided to make a lifestyle change in the upcoming year, you may be confused about what your role as a parent is in this type of endeavor. After all, if your child is over 18 he is legally an adult and understanding how you can be supportive without being seen as pushy or nagging can be a challenge.
10 Ways to Help Your Young Adult With New Year’s Resolutions
1. Don’t suggest resolutions
If a parent of a young adult says, “It would be a good idea for you to lose weight or drink less alcohol” that is definitely going to be met with, at best, resistance and maybe even alienation. A resolution suggestion from a parent runs the risk of sounding like you are saying to the child, “You are not good enough the way you are and need to change.”
They are adults and are responsible for making their own decisions on how they want to live their lives. For a positive change to occur, it needs to be their idea.
2. Understand What Your Child is Looking For
If a young adult comes to a parent to announce a new year’s resolution the first thing the parent needs to do is figure out, “Why is my child telling me this?” Maurice Elias, Author and Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University, says, “Sometimes young adults are telling the parents because they are directly or indirectly asking for support. Or it could be a test to see if you will say ‘It’s about time’ or “I told you so’. So it is important to really understand why they are confiding in you before you react.”
A big factor to consider is the parents’ overall relationship with the child. Elias explains,
Generally speaking, when there is a strong relationship, it’s good to be supportive. If the resolution is a surprise, inquisitiveness is a good thing when the relationship is good; otherwise, non-reactionary is the best course of action.
3. Help Make Resolution Concrete
It’s easiest to keep resolutions that are clearly defined rather than abstract. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, author, speaker and psychologist, suggests parents help young adults to focus on the steps they will take to achieve their resolution. For example, if your child’s resolution is to lose 10 lbs, help to think about how they will accomplish this and what obstacles they might face.
If they are in college, discuss what healthy food options are available in the dining hall. Do they need to stock some low-fat snacks in their dorm room? How will they deal with parties or late night cravings? Kennedy-Moore says,
Discuss how they will handle the temptations that they will face and what they will do if they have a setback while working toward their goal. By planning ahead, it will be easier to navigate the difficulties.
4. Be Supportive and Stay Positive
Ask your young adult child, “How can I help/support you?” and then try to give him what he asked for Elias says, “Young adults should be treated as ‘adults’ and not as ‘young.’” Elias cautions parents not to be too effusive about what a good idea it is, even if the resolution is something they had hoped the child would consider. Also, don’t be too pessimistic, especially if it something the child has attempted in the past and failed at. You certainly don’t want your child to feel defeated before they even start.
5. Plan Motivational Boosts
To achieve any goal, a person has to be willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for what they think is a worthwhile end result. Parents can help their young adult by brainstorming ways that they can stay motivated. Kennedy- Moore says, “Ask your child to list why he has made this resolution and ways they he can remind himself of how making this change will improve his life.” Writing notes or letters of encouragement to yourself, or setting phone reminders of daily goals can all be used as self-motivating tools.
6. Do it together
Make your child’s resolution a team effort. Consider joining your young adult in their quest to attain a healthier lifestyle. Kennedy-Moore says, “It’s easier to stay motivated if we’re not doing something alone.” And this team approach is good in the reverse too. Says Elias, “If you make a resolution, don’t hesitate to tell your young adult child how he or she can support you, if there is a way.”
7. Don’t Be a Saboteur
Suppose you are an avid baker and your young adult has made a resolution to consume less sugar. Don’t react with hurt feelings or take the decision as a personal slight. Instead of sabotaging their efforts by continuing to make tons of sweet treats, maybe bake less for a little while or incorporate lower sugar options into your baking repertoire.
8. Lay Low
Resist the urge to check in on how the resolution is going. It can be seen as pressure, even if they are doing really well. Elias says, “Take your cues from how your child has told you to be supportive.” If they want additional help, they will reach out if they know you are willing to support them in a non-judgmental manner.
9. Change is Hard
As common as it is for people to make New Year’s resolutions, it is almost equally common not to keep these resolutions. According to a research done at the University of Scranton, just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.
Even if you feel keeping the resolution would really benefit your child, resist the urge to shame them or nag them when you see them reverting back to old habits. Elias says, “If the resolution is an important matter that clearly has not worked out, it’s fine to say how hard it was, how much you noticed and appreciated the effort made, and to offer to help with ‘Plan B.’ The implicit message is that if it’s important enough to work on, it’s important enough to continue past it being a New Year’s resolution.
10. Remember, New Year’s is Not the Only Time to Make Changes
New Year’s resolutions are so rarely meaningful and actualized that I would not use New Year’s as a time to make suggestions about important matters related to health and well-being. Use opportunities that make more sense in context and timing.
Randi Mazzella has been a freelance writer for over ten years. Her work has appeared in many online and print publications including Teen Life, Your Teen, NJ Family and Barista Kids. She draws much of her inspiration from her crazy and fun life adventures with her own three children.