We all make them – and break them. But the right New Year’s resolutions can benefit the entire family, whether you’re a working mum or a busy dad, says Michael Donlevy. These are worth making – and keeping – for the sake of you and your whole family, and we’ll be there every step of the way…
1. Tell your boss where to go
OK, perhaps not quite – we’re in a recession. But if you’re feeling guilty about putting your career before your family, it’s time to shuffle up the work/life see-saw and find a better balance.
‘Flexible working is a great way of finding a better balance,’ says Anni Townend, leadership consultant, coach and author of Assertiveness And Diversity. ‘It helps improve performance because it enables people to be committed not only to their work but also to their children. It benefits the employer because it engenders commitment. People feel respected for who they are and valued for their work. Employees give more when they’re given responsibility for how they manage their energy and time.’
So how do you go about it? ‘Talk with your boss about what really matters to you and how this shows up in your work and at home – it’s who you are,’ says Townend. ‘Talk about being at your best and how you want to bring your best to your work. Ask your boss what would help them in supporting your request, and work out together what success will look and feel like. This is key – for you and your boss.
‘Ensure you and your boss build in regular conversations to review how it’s going. Remember, in working flexibly you too have to be flexible!’
We know you’re busy at work. We know times are tough. But it’s even tougher on children if their parents are never there for them. We’ll have more tips on work/life balance throughout 2013.
2. Turn off the TV
Now you’ve left work on time and you’re home, you may feel a sense of panic rising. ‘What am I going to do?’ The simple answer is: use the time you’ve made by turning off the TV for two hours every evening. Do something creative, such as writing stories, drawing or making short films together (you’ll be well-prepared for the exciting creative competitions we’ve got lined up for 2013). Or get outside!
This will benefit the entire family, says James Osborn, fitness and nutrition expert at Freedom2Train. ‘Exercise, particularly outdoors, helps relieve stress by releasing feel-good endorphins,’ he says. ‘It boosts energy by increasing blood flow and oxygen uptake and strengthens your immune system – crucial when your children are exposed to colds and flu at school.’
Even better, it sets a great example. ‘Research shows that if we start exercising young we’re more likely to keep going as we grow up,’ says Osborn. ‘Being active with your children is the perfect way to build exercise into their routine and make it part of their lifestyle.’
Stay tuned for more fitness advice for busy parents throughout the year.
3. Help your children with homework
This risks exposing the fact that you’re not the all-knowing expert on absolutely everything your kids think you are. But one way around this is to spend time helping them find answers to tricky questions (while pretending you knew all along but wanted them to do it for themselves).
‘Nearly 25 per cent of a child’s academic achievement comes from parental involvement,’ says educational psychologist Sam O’Shaughnessy. ‘So your child will do up to 25 per cent better if you’re a real participant in their schooling. It makes learning more fun, plus you can supplement their education and encourage creativity. And it gives them a very strong message that you want them to be the best they’re capable of being. What other reason would parents need?’
Creativity is a key point. With teachers and arts leaders concerned that the new EBaccs will prioritise regurgitated learning over creativity and self-expression, parents will play an even bigger role in bringing out the best in their children. This is a topic we will be covering throughout the year.
4. Kick a bad habit
We do it every year, usually vowing to kick our bad habits while raising a double whisky and puffing on a cigar as it chimes midnight on 31 December. Pretty soon we forget about it, but think of it this way: kicking a bad habit usually saves you money and, in the long run, makes you a happier, healthier person.
Take smoking. Even 20 a day will set you back £60 per week, or more than £3,000 per year. That would take some of the financial pressure off, wouldn’t it?
‘Kids learn from their parents – good habits and bad,’ says GP Dr Ian Campbell. ‘A child with smoking parents is more likely to smoke as an adult. A child born to two obese parents has a 50 per cent chance of being an obese adult. Changing lifestyle habits for the better is very productive. Don’t ask a child not to smoke or drink to excess, or to eat healthily and exercise more, if you’re not prepared to do it yourself. It might work when they’re five, but by the time they’re 10 they’ll see right through it and recognise the hypocrisy.
‘Parents who treat themselves with respect will produce children who do likewise. Particularly with overweight children, there’s very little that can be done for them unless parents are prepared to make the same lifestyle changes. So to give kids the best chances of a healthy lifestyle, it has to begin with Mum and Dad.’
And once again, we’ll be here to help…