Embracing Your Teen’s New Year Goals

As we ring in the New Year, many of us can be overwhelmed with thoughts of creating a new self, setting new goals, or even convincing ourselves that this year will be better. It’s important to keep in mind that we have opportunities to create new beginnings all the time, year-round, throughout our lives, and not everything has to happen at once. However, the new year offers a unique chance to start fresh in one or more areas of life.

In looking ahead to what the New Year will bring, we parents consider not only our own aspirations, but those we have for our children. We may like to see our son or daughter improve his or her grades, join a team, learn an instrument, or simply stop swearing so much. While these can all be great things to strive for, I recommend aligning the support we give our children with their personally identified interests, goals, and strengths. What does your teen love? What does he / she identify with? What makes your teen light up? These are seeds that will grow wildly if we water them. By doing this, we encourage teens to develop self-esteem and self-worth through pursuit of their own dreams.

If you don’t know your teen’s goals, just ask! One approach could be to share your own New Year’s goals, then ask if your teen has been thinking about his or her own goals. If they don’t have any goals, perhaps you can suggest some, or comment on something he / she is doing well, and encourage your teen to continue or step it up a notch. Once your teen’s goals are established, you can affirm them by arranging a celebration when a goal is reached, or giving some sort of “milestone” prize or verbal acknowledgement to recognize your child.

It can be hard to separate what we want our children to be from what they want to be, but nothing good comes easy. When we align support for new beginnings with a teen’s interests and self-identified goals, it can often mean they reach goals we want them to achieve as well. Teens who see themselves as accomplishing what is important to them, will be more likely to succeed in other domains such as school, behavior at home, and engagement with positive peers. Teens who are chasing a goal they are not motivated to achieve may seek satisfaction in other places, which can distract from their ability to prosper where it counts.

In this New Year, help your teen create a new beginning that is important to him or her, and you are likely to see a year full of positive growth and transformation.