Have past New Year's resolutions left you feeling guilty, as if you failed somehow if you didn't stick with them? Instead of starting the year with a high-pressure to-do list, use these tips from parenting experts and counselors to create resolutions -- or anti-resolutions -- that work for you:
Make Your Own Needs a Priority
Robin Kevles-Necowitz, LPC, founder of Parent Assist and the author of Go Take a Bath! A Powerful Self-Care Approach to Extraordinary Parenting, emphasizes the importance of self-care. "You must make your own needs a priority," she explains. "Your children need to see you as a full, balanced, healthy adult. To become one themselves, they need a role model. You're it."
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Give Yourself Permission to Have Fun
Do you feel guilty about having a life of your own -- or even fantasizing about what that might feel like? You're not alone. Many single moms and dads feel guilty about going out or having their "own lives," apart from their children. Susan Eppley, a parenting coach and the owner of Parent Coach Atlanta, recommends turning that guilt on its head. "Single parents often believe they cannot or -- worse -- should not get a babysitter and go to a movie, take a class, meet a friend for drinks, or date," she explains. "This simply is not the case!" The first step in making time for those activities is giving yourself permission to put them on your calendar. Only then will you truly enjoy those opportunities when they present themselves!
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Commit to Spending Time With Your Kids
Patricia Bubash, speaker and author of Successful Second Marriages, recognizes that many single moms and dads focus on dating when setting New Year's resolutions. But, she points out, many single parents feel "torn between wanting to spend time with peers and still being a good parent." The antidote, she says, is setting boundaries around your relationship with your children. "If boundaries of time are not set, there will be only frustration. Your children were in your life before any new love interest. Make a weekly date with your children and stick to it. This helps to keep communication going -- and helps to keep resentments down when you do have a real date!"
Consider Skipping Resolutions This Year
Patricia Hinckley, MA, a licensed professional counselor at the Mattawan Counseling Center, says "As a therapist I encourage my single parent clients to let themselves off the hook with resolutions that support them." Instead, she encourages single moms and dads to "embrace their challenging lives." For example, Hinckley recommends making promises to yourself, such as "'This year I'm going to allow myself to live in the present' or 'This year I'm going to look for opportunities to have a good belly laugh.'"
Break Big Resolutions into Smaller Action Steps
If you do decide to create more traditional New Year's resolutions, Brandon Miller -- a life coach for young adults and parents and the owner of Heart's Journey Coaching -- recommends breaking them down into realistic, measurable goals. For example, don't just commit to losing weight or getting fit. Break that big goal into smaller tasks you can accomplish. "This week it might be just to research gym memberships," Brandon explains. "Next week, it might be to visit a gym and check it out. After that, it might be go to the gym once during the week -- even if it's only for 5 minutes. The idea is to start small and grow big."
Finally, consider doing the opposite of the traditional New Year's resolution. Dr. Deb Castaldo, author of the soon-to-be-released book Relationship RebootTM recommends what she calls anti-resolutions. "[Traditional resolutions] are a waste of time and barely last a week!" she says. Instead, Dr. Castaldo recommends making choices that will get your year off to a great start and help you reach your dreams. For example, "Create a gratitude list for the past year," she suggests, or "Drop the pressure to change yourself." Doing the opposite of what's expected can be rejuvenating and help you start the year in a way that's more meaningful to you, personally.
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