Parenting is a lot of work! But to be the best parents we can be, we have to take time to nurture ourselves as the people we are outside of being Mom or Dad. Psychologist Rick Hanson, PhD, and acupuncturist & nutritionist Jan Hanson, MS, authors of Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships, are here to help!
Rick Hanson, PhD and Jan Hanson, MS

Your question:
What do you think are good New Year's resolutions for kids? Click here for more Mother Nurture!

Rick and Jan Hanson answer:
Until recently, family life was marked in most cultures by a year-round cycle of holidays and celebrations, most invested with real significance and ceremony. Solstices, days of religious remembrance, anniversaries of famous events -- all these were opportunities for reflection and renewed commitment.

Families could feel part of a larger whole. Individuals could relate humdrum daily acts to a deeper, embracing context. There was a yearly rhythm in which different aspects of existence were bowed to in turn, and we considered with each our life's aims or purpose.

Today, many of these holidays ("holy days") have either been largely forgetten or have lost much of their original meaning and power. On the whole, many of us are missing both meaningful rituals and the sense of deep purpose they can bring.

Deep-down purpose
I think that within each person -- as a fundamental property of our biology and nervous system -- is a core of awareness, relationship, interest, and positive intentions. Deep down inside, we want the best for other people and ourselves.

In our essence, we enter life with purposes. Our lives both express those purposes and seek to attain them.

The problem is that our fundamental aims can become covered over by daily routines and stresses. Purposes do not need to be verbally stated to have force. Yet expression in words can bring clarity and help remind us of our direction when things get foggy.

Children's resolutions
With your children, you can ask them three questions: What do you like about your life, that you want to keep? What problems do you wish would go away? What neat new things would you like to happen?

These questions can be applied to specific areas, such as school or the relationship with their despised kid brother. Or they can be general.

Cutting out pictures from magazines is a great way to help your children identify what they want, especially if they are young. Making a collage from the pictures and hanging it in their room can help remind them all year long. How about your purposes?
Grown-ups need purposes too. It can be real helpful to have the guidance of fundamental purpose statements when you are trying to make sense out of a crazy day, or remember why you ever had kids, or you feel like strangling your spouse!

You might want to develop purposes in four areas: as an individual, a mate, a parent, and as a family. You would create the first three purposes on your own, and the last one would be created by your family as a whole (led by the parents).

I'll suggest a process here, but there are lots of ways to come up with life purposes. Do what works for you. It's normal to feel pulled in different directions or have a hard time setting priorities. What you write is not set in stone. You can always change it later.

Listen for that "quiet, inner voice" of your essence or core. And make sure that your purposes are your own, and not someone else's.

A way to develop your purposes
Relax briefly, eyes closed or open. Contemplate the domain (self, parenting, etc.). See, feel, and hear what's important to you in that domain. Ask yourself what you want in different regards: happiness, well-being, accomplishment, creativity, spirituality, love, health, energy, etc.

Make it concrete by remembering wonderful times and identifying their key features. For example, when you develop your purpose as a mate, recall your early days, dating and courting, what drew you to each other, your dreams for your life together, and so forth.

Get a sense of fundamental elements/themes which summarize what you want. Write them down. Try to prioritize them to discover what really matters to you.

Polish your elements/themes into a single purpose statement. It may be best if this statement is in the form of a complete sentence, present tense, positive voice (see examples in box). It's OK to list themes and elements, or other notes, under a single purpose statement. I also recommend collages highly, in which you glue pictures and words to a poster in a powerful visual statement of your purposes.

Letting purposes guide you
When the going gets tough, the tough recall their purposes! If you are feeling rattled by kids, job, your spouse, the in-laws, whatever, remember your essential purposes. Every few days, if not more frequently, glance at your purposes or collages. What follows is a little routine you can use that takes less than a few minutes each day.

For each significant purpose: Imagine having that purpose fulfilled during a typical day (eyes closed or open). Imagine having that purpose fulfilled during the weeks and months of the year ahead. Ask yourself if you really want that purpose fulfilled. Feel into or activate your will to have it . . . your determination . . . your intention . . . your commitment . . . Imagine yourself with your determination for that purpose continuing on into the future . . . See that happening . . . Know that it will happen.

Also, talk about your purposes with your mate. Explain what they mean and why they are important. Ask questions to clarify things or make supportive comments, but don't criticize or argue about each other's purposes.

Sample life purposes
Note: These are merely examples of purposes. Many parents will develop other purposes. Develop the purposes that are best for you.

As an individual:

  • I experience love and satisfaction while contributing to the well-being of myself and others.
  • My life purpose is to learn, love, support and enjoy.
  • Through doing the best I can, I express my religious commitments.
  • Making a living, helping out, having fun.

    As a mate:
  • Love, honor and cherish.
  • Practice the loving sacrifice of self into relationship which deepens my spiritual life.
  • Be a partner with another in the accomplishment of life tasks.

    As a parent:

  • I provide a safe, loving framework in which our children can joyously become themselves.
  • Through my efforts and learning, I give my children food and shelter, love, self-confidence, and respect for others.
  • Avoiding the mistakes my own parents made while minimizing my own.
  • Teaching our kids that life can be interesting and satisfying if you pay attention, intend the best, and keep on working at things.

    As a family:

  • Our family is a safe port in the storms of life, a secure base from which we can each explore.
  • We are working toward the well-being of ourselves and the world.
  • We love each other and share that love with others.
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