In the first issue of 2020, ParentsWorld presents A-Z model resolutions 21st century parents should make — it’s still not too late — to nurture cheerful, healthy and confident children and improve quality of family life – Mini P. & Cynthia John
The start of a new year is a time of hope and new beginnings. It’s an occasion for making resolutions to adopt best lifestyle practices, change for the better and set personal and professional goals. The tradition of New Year resolutions is centuries old and follows the 6th century Babylonian practice of making promises to the gods at the start of the year that they would return borrowed objects and discharge their debts. Likewise, in 9th century BCE Rome, caesars and senators made good conduct promises to the god Janus, after whom the month of January is named. And in the medieval era, knights took the ‘peacock vow’ at the beginning of every year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalrous, knightly conduct. In the 21st century, the tradition continues with people worldwide making New Year resolutions.
But then as now New Year resolutions are seldom followed through. In a series of studies concluded in 2018, University of Scranton, USA researchers found that 77 percent of the 200 people whom they followed over two years, were unable to stick to NY resolutions for more than a week. This percentage dropped to 50 in three months and only 19 percent were able to report remembering the resolution at the end of two years.
But despite New Year resolutions being so ephemeral, the Scranton study highlights that people who make NY resolutions are ten times more likely to achieve positive change in their lives. An earlier 2007 Gallop study also revealed that 46 percent of people who set “realistic and common” New Year goals such as weight loss, quitting smoking, etc were ten times more likely to succeed than those resolving to make life changes at other times of the year.
Therefore, with the first year of a new decade having commenced, this is a good time for parents — and children — to evaluate the past year’s hits and misses and resolve to adopt best practices that build children’s strengths, mend weaknesses and help them cross new milestones.
In this first issue of 2020, ParentsWorld presents A-Z model resolutions 21st century parents should make — it’s still not too late — to nurture cheerful, healthy and confident children and improve the quality of family life.
Set an example by appreciating the life, people and material goods that your family has been blessed with. Encourage children to also express appreciation by writing notes to family members and friends. “We encourage our school students to appreciate one person every day and write three good things that happen to them each day. This helps children develop positive outlook and cope with problems confidently and optimistically,” says Veni Sukumar, head of education, Samsidh Group of Schools, Bangalore.
Billionaire investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett spends five to six hours per day reading while Microsoft founder Bill Gates reads 50 books per year. Motivate your children to read a book per month, and set a time every day to read together en famille. Reading reduces stress, improves memory, vocabulary and communication skills. A recent study conducted by Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, USA, and published in The Journal of Pediatrics (November) posits that shared reading between parents and young children, including infants, strongly boosts their vocabulary. Buy your child an attractive notebook to record the books read, together with interesting tidbits they liked.
Add more citrus to the family’s diet. Orange, lemon, grapefruit and sweet lime are rich in Vitamin C, which strengthens children’s immune systems. Citrus fruits contain carotenoids, fibre, essential oils and flavonoids, and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and are free of fats, cholesterol and sodium. Resolve to serve fresh juice or citrus fruits at breakfast every day.
The start of 2020 is a good time to resolve to minimise technology dependence and encourage children to use their God-given hands to create something new — a room decor item, bird feeder, hand-made card or meal. The Internet is full of DIY (do it yourself) videos. Encourage children to to complete a DIY project every month and join them in creative stress-busting activities.
Some doubts that persisted about the health benefits of eggs in the past have been conclusively cleared. A recent study published in Paediatrics confirms an egg a day for six months, together with low sugar meals, helps children attain height and prevents stunting.
Eggs also give children the energy for sports and exercise. “During exercise, the body loses its main muscle food i.e, protein. Eggs replenish lost proteins. They contain all the essential amino acids, healthy fats and vitamins the body needs to build strength and energy,” says Sneha Arora, fitness trainer at Cuts and Curves, Bangalore.
Teach children to learn to forgive bad experiences of yesteryears. Forgiving is not about forgetting but about letting go and moving on. It encourages children to develop compassion and empathy. Storing up anger and resentment is a recipe for anxiety and depression. Lead by example, show children by forgiving trespasses against you.
Derived from the Latin word gratia, gratitude is synonymous with grace. Teach children to count their blessings rather than their deficits. Two simple ways to cultivate the virtue of gratitude is to encourage children to write thank-you notes and send at least one note of gratitude per month. Set a time per week to count your family’s blessings.
The rising incidence of technology addiction in children has made old-fashioned hobbies history. Contemporary children have little time to indulge in craft activities, read, tend the garden or collect stamps. Encourage children to develop hobbies that teach patience, enhance confidence and self-esteem and develop old-fashioned skills
Resolve to spark the imagination of children through creative activities such as sketching, painting, story-writing, even daydreaming. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) famously said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Imagination opens the door to possibilities. Creativity, ingenuity, and lateral thinking are the skills required for success in 21st century workplaces.
What brings children joy? Playing with friends/grandparents? Helping others? Pursuing a hobby such as pottery or sport? Help children discover joyous activities.
K. Kinesthetic learning
Kinesthetic aka tactile learning enables children to learn through hands-on activities. There’s no shortage of studies which prove that kinesthetic learning enables children to develop better understanding of concepts, learn from mistakes and apply learning. In the new year, involve children in activities such as gardening, theatre, dancing, rock climbing, hiking, etc to learn by doing
Laughter promotes healthy functioning of blood vessels, improves emotional health, and encourages social interaction and bonding. It triggers the brain’s emotional centres, releasing dopamine, which enhances the experience of pleasure, serotonin, which lifts moods, and endorphins which induce euphoria. Moreover, if your child has respiratory health problems, a good laugh provides the easiest way to regulate breathing and flush out the lungs, immediately increasing the heart rate and oxygen consumption.
M. Media detox
Measure the time the family is spending on media. Are you spending more time watching television, on Whatsapp and social media than with your children? Are your children addicted to video games and Facebook? Take stock and cut back the hours spent on non-priority media activity. Do the same for your children. Define and re-examine the family’s media diet through the year.
N. New things
Resolve to make new friends, try new sports and co-curricular activities, and experiment with new health foods and diets. Your children will absorb this spirit of adventure. Novel experiences lead to new learning and discovery of latent passions and interests.
O. One at a time
Multitasking makes people less productive and effective, as the brain can do justice to one activity at a time. According to the American Psychological Association, shifting between tasks can cost a person up to 40 percent of productive time. Researchers from Stanford University (2014) found that multitasking not only slows one down, but also lowers IQ, damaging the brain. In 2020, resolve to do one thing at a time. It will get done faster and better.
P. Plant power
At a time when Planet Earth’s ecology and environment is under severe stress, 2020 is the year to plant trees and flora. Outdoor and indoor plants improve air quality, lower stress levels, and aid concentration. It’s now well-established that some indoor plants such as the areca palm and the money plant reduce carbon dioxide levels, improve humidity, mitigate the impact of pollutants such as benzene and nitrogen dioxide, and absorb airborne dust.
Q. Quiz more
Children who are frequently quizzed perform better in tests and exams. Resolve to create quizzes for the children and encourage them to take online quiz tests. Quizzes don’t have to be frivolous. They can cover topics such as technology, history, sports etc. The website sporcle.com offers quizzes on trivia; myquiz.org allows access to quizzes on smartphones and britannica.com/quiz provides interesting quizzes on art, culture, geography, etc.
R. Reduce, reuse & recycle
Begin the year with a resolution to practice environment sustainability at home. Provide a recycling bin at home for recycling and reusing cans, bottles, newspapers, books, metal, glass and electronics goods. Teach children to shut taps when brushing their teeth; unplug chargers when not using the cell phone and turn off unnecessary lights.
You could also resolve to encourage children to initiate sustainable-themed fundraisers at school. For instance, they could start a neighbourhood drive to collect e-waste such as inkjet cartridges, laptops, small electronics items and cell phones to exchange for cash. There are several companies that specialise in converting e-waste into fuel.
Resolve to teach the whole family the importance of stretching before exercise to warm up muscles. Similarly, if children don’t cool down after exercise, it delays muscle recovery. “Stretching improves the mobility of joints and reduces muscle stiffness. It also reduces the risk of injury and improves body balance. After a workout, stretching helps to minimise muscle soreness and relaxes the body,” says Monojit Ghosh, gymnastics coach, Art Corner Gymnastics Academy, Bangalore.
T. Time management
Teaching children time management is important as it helps them to prioritise and complete tasks on time. In the new year, help children plan their study and co-curricular/sports activities schedules to reduce the stress of sprinting to meet deadlines.
People who vacation at least twice a year have lower risk of heart attack, according to several research studies. Taking time off work helps the body relax and increases blood flow and positive energy, boosting concentration and productivity. Even at the end of every work day, teach children to unwind with a book, prayer, warm bath, and family time. This will also improve the quality of their sleep.
Volunteering for social causes enables children to develop the disappearing virtue of empathy. This new year, encourage children to volunteer to work with an NGO, school community service project or perhaps initiate a neighbourbood social service club.
In this age of email and WhatsApp, writing skills are disappearing. Encourage children to write old-fashioned letters to a family member or friend. Writing is therapeutic, especially for introverted children not adept at expressing their feelings verbally. Moreover, writing develops children’s vocabulary and communication skills. Buy your child an attractive journal to pen her thoughts.
Now that the whole world swears by the miraculous therapeutic effects of practising yoga, the new year is a good time to include yoga in the family’s daily schedule. Enroll the family in a yoga class and/or practise it by following online videos.
“Yoga is not only about breathing exercises and improving body flexibility, it’s also about taking a break from hectic schedules and enjoying calmness and enlightenment. Yoga brings freedom to mind and body,” says Renu Naidu, yoga instructor, Bangalore.
In the new era of Netflix, Amazon prime and online gaming entertainment, adequate sleep is becoming a rarity. The new year presents an opportunity to resolve that all — especially growing children — clock the medically advised 10-11 hours of sleep. Especially in early childhood, sleep is of great importance because it’s during the hours of sleep that the body heals and repairs heart and blood vessels and crucial brain development occurs. In the new year, resolve to follow this sleep schedule recommended by the US-based National Sleep Foundation: infants: 11-14 hours every day; preschoolers (aged 3-5): 10-13 hours; school age children (6-13): 9-11 hours; teens (14-17): 8-10 hours, and young adults (18-25): 7-9 hours.
“Sleeping hours are best for the orderly growth and development of children. Children who sleep adequately report improved memory whereas sleep deprived children tend to be hyperactive, aggressive and irritable. Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to depression and child obesity,” warns Dr. Ranjini Raghavan, senior consultant, ENT surgeon and sleep specialist, Sunrise Hospital, Kakkanad (Kochi).
Paradoxically even as the threat posed to existence on Planet Earth of the species homo sapiens by global warming and environment despoliation has increased during the past few years, wellness has become the dominant mantra of the educated middle class worldwide. Against this sombre background when the voices of children led by child crusaders such as Greta Thunberg protesting the toxic legacy that children of the future will be obliged to endure, at the micro level, responsible parents need to make — and keep — new year resolutions that will make children’s lives healthier, happier and joyous.