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5 New Year’s Resolutions to Strengthen the Family

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The New Year is fast approaching, and if you’re like most people, you’re taking stock of 2011 – your ups and downs, successes and failures – and figuring out how to do better in 2012.  The most common resolutions people make are major life changes like losing 50 pounds or quitting smoking cold turkey, which is why more than half of people report that they failed their New Year’s resolution every year.

Instead of making a resolution to clean out the garage (you should just do that anyway,) how about making a resolution to strengthen your family this year?  There are small, simple steps you can take as a parent or spouse to make your relationships with your loved ones better, and none of them require going low-carb.  For New Year’s, these are the 5 resolutions I’m going to make to strengthen my family:

1.  Spend more time with my family.  Between working active duty, commuting from my home to the base, cooking dinner, blogging and trying to squeeze in some time for me, I don’t have a whole lot of extra hours in the day.  But I need to think about that in a different way in 2012.  My family shouldn’t get my “extra” time.  My family should have their own time.  I wish I had two or three hours to play with my daughter every night, and two or three hours to spend quality time connecting with my fiance.  But I can’t stay up until 2359 every night, and anyway, life happens fast.  There are errands to run, emergencies to handle and an endless list of happenings and events that suck up my time throughout the week.  It’s always my family that has to deal with it when I have to stay late to help someone out with their workload or counsel a Marine on what he needs to do better.  It’s always my family that gets dragged along on my misadventures, instead of getting good quality time with me.  So I’m going to do better.  I’m going to pick one weekday and one weekend day that are non-negotiable.  Unless it’s an emergency, those days are for my daughter and my fiance, and errands and everything else need to wait.  They deserve my full attention when I’m with them, and I can do better than I did in 2012.

2.  Start a college savings account.  I sometimes feel like if my savings account isn’t bulging at the seams (it isn’t, and never seems to these days) I can’t possibly afford to sock any more money away for anything else.  The budget is pretty tight these days for my family, as with many other families, and too often I find myself putting off bills until future paychecks just to have breathing room.  But something I can’t afford is to fail to save for my daughter’s college tuition.  Even if I’m only able to put in a little bit every month – or have to skip a month – I know I’ve got the account open and when I have extra, I can put it away in there.  The best way to save for college is opening something called a 529.  I did mine over at The Freshman Fund; check them out, they’re a great site.

3.  Turn off my cell phone when I’m with my family, and ask them to do the same.  It’s way too easy to stay plugged in these days – always watching your phone for a text message or an e-mail, and while this is an excellent way to quickly respond to business that needs your attention, it also takes away…your attention.  I’m not going to do this anymore.  When I’m with my family, I’m turning the cell phone off.  I can think of a million things to do with my daughter and fiance, and none of them require me pulling up Google Reader and geeking out on my favorite blogs.

4.  Attend a parenting class or workshop, or at least get a good, age-specific book.  Just because parenting has been done by trial-and-error for the last thousand millenia (give or take) doesn’t mean it’s the best way to parent.  It just means it works.  Most of the time.  There are a lot of smart people out there, and a lot of dads that are better than me.  My daughter would disagree, but I know my failings, and I owe it to my daughter to buy a book or take a class or otherwise get together with other parents and swap ideas and stories.  And if I have any perennial conversation with my fiance, it’s almost always about how romantic I’m not being, even though I love her dearly and just don’t happen to be good at getting all googly-eyed.  Then I read this book, and we have the conversation a lot less now.  If you haven’t read Fromm’s The Art of Loving, get on it.  You and your partner will both love it.

5.  Keep my immediate family connected with my extended family.  I’m terrible at this.  I call my parents maybe once a month, and see my sister maybe twice a month.  I sometimes think I’d rather go to SERE school than have to spend ten minutes on the phone with anyone.  But their presence in my life is so important to me, and so important to my daughter and fiance, that I’m doing this wrong.  I need to set aside time once a week – and I’m thinking this can be a fun family activity – to write e-mails, make phone calls and write actual, good old-fashioned letters to go in the good old-fashioned mail.  I need to get in contact and stay in contact, not only because it’s great for my daughter, but because no one ever looks back at their life and wishes they spent less time connecting with the people that they loved.  It’s easy to lose sight of that, to let my perspective get swept up by the busy pace of the military and the world at large.  But zooming out and taking the long view will only benefit me in the long run.

If you have a New Year’s Resolution you’re planning on making to strengthen your family, I’d like to hear about it in the comments.  Tell me your plans for 2012!

(image credit: health.com)