January is always a good time to evaluate the year to come and focus on what’s important to you and your family. In the spirit of the new year – 2023 – here are 23 things you can do to be the best family you can be.

1. Unplug.

We know it’s hard! Between cell phones, school-issued devices, video games, e-books, social media and good old-fashioned TV, getting away from a screen can be difficult. We aren’t suggesting you cut your family off, but try for less technology time each day. Maybe this means no phones at dinner or having a weekly limit on screen time. When you set these parameters with your family, also use this opportunity to discuss online safety with your children. If you don’t already, be sure you have the proper parental controls set on devices, and be sure you have the passwords to your children’s online accounts.

2. Commit to one family dinner per week (at least).

Schedules are busy, but sitting around the table at least once a week gives your family time to reconnect. Accomplishing this during the week might not be possible, so try for Sunday evenings; set goals for the week and talk about any upcoming plans or challenges. Family dinners are also a great excuse to try new foods. Whether it’s a different type of cuisine or a vegetable your kids have been resisting, get creative and have fun!

3. Eat healthy.

Be sure your kids know what a balanced diet is and provide them with fresh fruits and vegetables each day. Use toothpicks to make mini fruit kabobs for lunchboxes. Low-fat yogurt is great for breakfast or snacks. Try a new recipe once a week to keep healthy dinners exciting. Sheet pan suppers are easy, quick to clean up, and offer tons of variety while being good for you.

4. Words and feelings matter.

Concentrate on how your family speaks to one another. If you react too quickly, be honest with yourself and your children and model ways to say, “I’m sorry.” We all have bad days. Make your home a safe space to talk about how you’re feeling. Let your kids see you cry if something sad is happening. When something great happens, celebrate it. If you notice a change in your child’s behavior or demeanor, talk to them about it. Life has its ups and downs; let mental health be a topic you confront head on.

5. Create open communication.

If you’re a child of the ‘80s or ‘90s, it’s hard to fathom how much more our kids are exposed to at an earlier age now. Let your children know that they can ask you anything and then be prepared on how to have age-appropriate discussions on whatever topic they bring up.

6. Get outside.

Walk around your neighborhood, go to a park, play in the backyard. The fresh air and sunshine will do you good, even on a cold day! If you haven’t checked out the BeltLine, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park or Sweetwater Creek State Park, use this year to make it happen.

7. Stay healthy.

Remember yearly doctor and dental visits for everyone. Preventative care is so important and covered by most insurance plans.

8. Embrace curiosity.

We know, the fourth time your toddler asks “Why?” you are ready to scream, but letting kids ask questions and explore the world around them is so important. Resist the urge to shut them down this year.

9. Read together.

When you read to young kids, you are helping them develop language skills and expanding their imaginations. It’s also great for some quiet cuddle time before bed. If you have older kids, make time for parallel reading. You’ll have an excuse to join a book club and you can still sneak in a few couch cuddles.

10. Make a family movie night list.

Sit down as a family and create a list of 12 movies you want to watch this year. Then, each month, you can have family movie night complete with popcorn and candy.

11. Make chores a family affair.

Mom and dad shouldn’t be the only people in the household accountable for keeping things running. Young kids can help make beds, put away toys and laundry, and clear the table after meals. Older kids can set the table, fold laundry and vacuum. When you divide the work, it gets done more quickly so there’s more time for fun. Plus, chores help kids appreciate everything you do for them more and teach them responsibility.

12. Sharing is caring.

Teach your kids to share toys with each other and friends. Donate clothes and items you aren’t using anymore.

13. Research your family tree.

This is a great way for your children to speak with their  grandparents and hear stories from their childhood. You can also use it as a jumping off point to discuss historical events and how they may have impacted your ancestors.

14. Have a family meeting.

These weekly or monthly check-ins can be productive and fun. They can help you learn about one another, practice communication skills, overcome challenges together, reflect on feelings, set and achieve shared goals and better understand your loved ones’ perspectives and values.

15. Help in the community.

Volunteer for local park clean-up, collect coats for those in need, donate food for the hungry. Hands On Atlanta, Little Helpers of Atlanta, Project Open Hand and Solidarity Sandy Springs all have opportunities for families to volunteer together. Show your kids what being a good citizen means when you give back.

16. Express gratitude.

It’s easy to focus on the negative. Take time each night before bed to say one thing you’re thankful for. It will reframe your thinking and improve your mental health.

17. Embrace diversity.

We live in interconnected world. It’s so important to teach your children about acceptance and inclusion. Use this year to learn about other cultures and adopt some of their traditions. Spend a Saturday exploring the international markets and restaurants up and down Buford Highway. The Buford Highway Farmer’s Market is home to unique produce, spices from around the world and has aisles dedicated to different countries. Let each child choose something unique for everyone to try.

18. Go on an adventure.

This could be a big trip or just camping in the backyard. The point is to enjoy time together doing something different! If you want to stay close, try Callaway Gardens or rent a house in north Georgia for mountain views and cute downtown areas. All-inclusive resorts are a great option for staying on budget and the Caribbean has plenty of options just a short flight away.

19. Exercise together.

It’s fun and keeps you active. Let each family member take turns choosing the activity. Silver Comet, Piedmont Park, Roswell Area Park and Swift-Cantrell Park all have free, outdoor exercise equipment you can try out.

20. Play hooky from school and work and do something cool!

Every once and while, it’s OK. Opt for a matinee movie, visit a museum, or head out of town early for an extra day of vacation.

21. Spend more time with extended family.

This is especially important post-pandemic when travel and large celebrations were put on hold.

22. Be eco-friendly.

Recycle, compost, borrow instead of buy, limit energy consumption.

23. Create a safe space for making mistakes and learning from them.

Childhood is the time to fail. When kids learn from an early age that it’s OK to make mistakes, they are more likely to try new things. Making mistakes also helps children problem solve and understand natural consequences. This year, use mistakes as teachable moments.

-Tali Benjamin

Recent Posts