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Believe it or not, we have almost made it through the crazy, turbulent year that is 2020.

It’s been a year of uncertainty and stress, and it’s all too easy to focus on all the negative experiences we’ve dealt with the past several months. It’s also difficult to find positives this time of year when we are forced to change our usual holiday plans and can’t celebrate with family the way we’d like.

While I can’t make it safer to see loved ones and celebrate the holidays, I would like to focus on how we can try to reframe our thinking. This year it’s even more important to think about how we can all start the new year with a more positive attitude. While we can’t personally stop the virus or change other people’s unsafe behaviors, we can look internally – both individually and as a family – and focus on achievable resolutions for 2021.

Most of us tend to make the same kinds of ambitious resolutions: go to the gym more, eat healthier and so on. While we may last a few weeks, or even months, these goals are often difficult to maintain, and they are even tougher when it’s not necessarily safe to be going to the gym or a crowded grocery store. Instead, I’d like to offer some possible changes that you can make as a family for more attainable resolutions.

For younger kids, these resolutions can include basic tasks like picking up their toys more regularly or working more with their parents to brush their teeth, wash their hands frequently, and not fighting bath time. You can encourage younger kids to find a new activity or two, especially if their usual one has been canceled due to the pandemic. Other age-appropriate goals may be safety-related, like making sure to lock doors at home or always putting on a seat belt without being reminded.

There are plenty of attainable goals that older kids and adolescents can make as well. These may include eating a more balanced diet, increasing exercise or other types of physical activity, and cutting down on screen time – all of which are important right now, especially as kids have been more sedentary with online school. This is also a great time to help reset bedtime habits, if kids are staying up too late while they’ve been stuck at home.

This year, it’s even more important to also try to set some personal goals that can help improve mental health, not just physical health. It’s been all too easy to adopt a negative attitude this past year, and many of us have been feeling down, stressed or overwhelmed. We can all take a moment to reflect and figure out how we can improve our emotions and mentality. For younger kids, this includes working on empathy, reaching out to friends and classmates who might be struggling, standing up to bullies, and even getting along better with siblings. Older children and adults can look for ways to help recognize and manage stress while also taking time to remember things we can be thankful for this year.

Parents can help model this behavior by making similar resolutions or finding new ways to spend time together as a family. This is a time to create new traditions like family game night, baking together and of course staying active as a family. While this will obviously not lead to an end to the pandemic, it can help us get through whatever 2021 has in store for us.


Dr. Laura Shefner writes about pediatric care for the Cleveland and Columbus Jewish News. She is a pediatrician at The MetroHealth System and practices in Beachwood and Parma.

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