The New Year is a time for us to reflect on how to improve our lives and family lives. Read on for tips from Dr. Jessica Long on how to set realistic goals for your family in 2018…

Somehow 2018 has snuck up on us. Between the fun chaos of winter break and the holidays with small children, my family neglected to figure out new years resolutions ahead of time. Now that we are settling back into our routine – and it’s too cold to do anything else – I finally sat down to think of ways we could come together even more as a family in 2018.

Top of the list is screen time. Though as a pediatrician I am all too aware of the negative consequences of my children being glued to a screen, I far too often give myself a pass. Which is not entirely fair. When our phones are down, we speak 5 times as many words to our babies and toddlers who are acquiring language skills, we engage more meaningfully with our children who thrive on individualized attention from us, and we model appropriate behavior for our adolescents who are starting out in the electronic world. So starting in 2018, my phone will be hidden at meal time, it will be far from me when we do family movie or game night, and I will leave my Instagram stalking to after my children are asleep.

Before I had children, volunteering was a big part of my life – I loved participating in weekend service projects and spent summers doing medical volunteering abroad. Sadly, volunteering has taken a way far back seat since having children, partially because I felt it was too hard to include my kids. This year we are changing that! Turns out there are lots of ways even small children can meaningfully participate in community service and – no surprise – they love it. Our family resolution is to do a minimum of one family service outing a season. First up will be delivering meals to home bound seniors through Food and Friends and after that we’ll try a Sunday morning at The DC Diaper Bank. Your kids will be most excited if you initially tap into their interests – take your animal lover to spend time at the Humane Rescue Alliance or have your budding artist make get well cards for hospitalized children. Once you see how fun and easy it is to volunteer as a family, I have no doubt this will be an easy resolution to keep.

Last up will probably be the hardest – introducing new foods to everyone! Like all families with young children, dinner often feels like a constant rotation of “kid food”. My girls are not adventurous eaters at all but 2018 is the year to change it! To expand their palate, we are going to put them to work. Involving your kids in the shopping and cooking process makes them more likely to at least give the spoon a lick at dinner time. Once it gets warm, I am determined that we will finally successfully grow vegetables in our garden which will hopefully pique their interest in eating something they helped to cultivate. Will my children start requesting wheatgrass smoothies and lamb vindaloo? Unlikely, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Cheers to a healthy and fun 2018 with your loved ones. What resolutions will you make with your family?