How do we get out of any sticky ruts we might have found ourselves in? The new year is a perfect time for a family reset. Photo / Getty Images
We all thought 2020 was a challenging year for parenting, and then along came 2021 … And now, here we all are – a little more exhausted, uninspired and device-addicted. Which sounds like a very negative introduction to an article! So, let’s go somewhere more hopeful, because there is still hope – lots of it.
As families, we’ve faced unprecedented challenges, but we’ve drawn on resilience, creativity and problem solving we probably didn’t even realise we had. And we take all that great resilience and character development into the new year.
But how do we make the most of this moment – a new calendar, new routines, new expectations? How do we get out of any sticky ruts we might have found ourselves in? This is a perfect time for a family reset. A family reset is worth considering at this time of year because identifying what you want to change or leave behind works along the same lines as this whakataukī (proverb) –
Ka mua, ka muri – To look forward we have to look back (walking backwards into the future)
Grasp the gold
We’re not that keen to wallow in the past but we do have a few things to celebrate before we can dust off 2021. There was some gold discovered, even in the long days at home missing family, friends, cafes, schools and cafes (did I already say cafes?).
It is tempting to run from this year but since we managed to get through it and, at times, do quite well, we need to pause for a moment and celebrate. Think of what good stuff did happen. Your children got stuck into school via Zoom (well, sometimes they did) and they got more into craft, card games and bike riding. They made friends with their siblings or found that they really liked their own company.
We all learned to cope with a lack of rhythm and certainty and found that we could handle disappointments better than we thought. These are things to celebrate.
When you call out the gold, it shows kids that there is nearly always good stuff happening, even when life is out of order.
I look back on the year and think of balloons at the end of driveways and chalk greetings left on footpaths. I recall special meals and individual certificates given out for things like discovering a new board game, showing your class some new dance moves, learning to bake/knit/garden/play cricket/whatever.
Our kids want to know that even when life is pretty random, the reliable thread that runs through it all is that we will be okay, we will stick together and fun will still be had.
Goodbye tough stuff
That said, I think we do need to put some distance between ourselves and the hard things that were also woven into 2021.
The schooling at home was a big challenge for many families. Not every child loves to be taught by their parents and resistant attitudes may have lurked around the dining/school table.
The house felt small – someone was always taking over the bedroom, the lounge, the garage or the car. It was noisy and messy and the days rolled together so we didn’t always remember that last week had merged into this week.
Maybe it was depressing – not fun and no end in sight. We knew we were not at our best but the energy was absent to get above it.
Our kids were unnerved – not knowing if their friends were still their friends, as lots can happen over a few weeks that turned into months. Parents were a bit short on tenderness as they navigated big stresses with life and work, and children picked up the stress and were more demanding than usual.
Let’s farewell that stuff – goodbye and see you later. (Hopefully not.)
Embrace the new
We are starting to accept that the world, Aotearoa and our neighbourhood are all a bit different now. We also know that we are ready for some resetting, tweaking and page-refreshing. We are even, perhaps, overdue for some big changes.
Now is a great moment to front-foot the new year, so we can feel a bit more ahead of the game and our kids can lean into some structure and predictability once again.
How do you stage a reset?
Sometimes a bit of frustration provides the right amount of energy to change things up. Talk to your partner about the things you feel need tweaking in your family life, so you are both on the same page. Then choose a time and place and let your kids know there is a bit of a korero (chat) coming up. Around the meal table is good, so maybe you’ll have your family reset korero after dinner and before dessert.
Start with what you consider to be the most pressing issue for your family – perhaps it’s the amount of screen time or the lack of participation in chores, or maybe the way everyone is talking to one another.
Share the problem from your perspective, and ask how your kids view it too. Brainstorm some solutions and choose the ones that everyone can live with. Have a “secretary” taking notes so there is some formal follow-through. Having some “minutes” from the meeting shows that the intention is real. They also bring a bit of formality, as well as some accountability to see the changes through.
Your kids are not necessarily going to thank you for the reset, but what they will respond well to is the sense of predictability, order and rhythm you are creating. There might be some pushback – children and adults find it hard to lose perceived freedom like unlimited screen time, but we can all handle it with generous doses of encouragement and the sense that the new way of doing things is more than an experiment. Rather it’s some structure that the grown-ups of the family have put in place because they really care.
When the time comes to get ready for school in 2022, use the same principle and set up some new routines that offer that sense of order and routine.
The basics really do matter. Kids need to get back into the rhythm of set bedtimes and routines. Practise a few school runs prior to the big day: bed on time, bag packed, table set, uniform out. Laminate a chart of your child doing the six-eight tasks required in the morning so they know what is expected and get up 15 minutes earlier than you need so you have some wriggle room for the wobbles.
Every family needs a reset – probably at least once a year. Lead the way with some playfulness, coupled with firmness and intentionality – and maybe throw in some good “old walking the talk” too, when it comes to changes you’re instigating. Children respond to leadership and nothing speaks louder than a role model.
This article was originally published on Parenting Place.