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10 Family Resolutions for the New Year

Is it just me, or has this year flown by? Well really, every year has since I've had kids. Empty nesters weren't lying when they warned me how fast my kids would grow up. Before the next few years also fly by and my kids spread their wings to fly out of my nest, I'm going to make sure we make the most of this upcoming year with these family resolutions. Are you with me?

1. Start a weekly ritual.

For instance, once a week have a family movie night. Snuggle up on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and show your kids the movies you loved when you were young, or check out Parenting's list of "Best Family Movies" for ideas. Another option: Have a game night. From charades and "Name that Tune" to Uno, Trivial Pursuit, and chess, you can probably find a game the whole family will enjoy. (By the way, if you haven't played Clue in years, you'll be amazed at just how fun that can be. It's pretty addicting, playing for hours kind of fun.)

2. Play hooky from school and work—just once!—and spend the day together.

Weekends are often so packed with birthday parties, sports, play dates, errands, and chores that families don't get quality time together. Pressing the pause button on your regular life for a day might just be what you need. Whether you just stay home in your pajamas all day, go see a movie, or plan a trip to the beach, it'll make it that much more exciting knowing you're sort of breaking the rules together. I live in Florida and have taken the kids to Disney World a bunch of times. However, we usually go on weekends or during school holidays. Recently, after my kids had two great report cards and my husband and I both went through a particularly hectic time at work, we decided to take a day off during the week (ok, fine, two days!) and head to the most magical place on Earth. I've gotta say, it was one of our best trips ever. My kids kept saying things like, "My friends are in science class right now, and I'm in line for Space Mountain." That definitely made the trip more special.

3. Practice hello's and goodbye's.

In her blog, Gretchen Rubin, author of "The Happiness Project," discusses the importance of actually giving your family member warm greetings and farewells. So, for instance, instead of waving a quick "bye" when you or your loved ones rush out of the house in the morning, take a little time to give a hug or a kiss and a genuine, "I love you. Have a great day!" Same goes for when you greet each other at the end of the day.

4. Volunteer as a family.

Make a list of various ways that you want to help others this year, and then figure out a plan to make them happen. From participating in a charity walk to collecting used blankets, towels, and toys for an animal shelter, there are endless possibilities of ways to help.

5. Exercise together.

This doesn't mean you have to drag the kids to the gym to knock out 30 minutes on the elliptical together (although some older kids might actually enjoy that). The key is to make it fun! Depending on your child's age, you can sign up for a yoga class or make an effort to take a walk together every day after school. Exercise is notoriously a tough New Year's resolution to stick with, so make it goal-oriented: Train for a 5K together or aim to complete a particular hike in your area.

6. Eat more vegetables.

OK, so that might be easier said than done, especially when you have, say, a 9-year-old whose eye's actually well up with tears at the prospect of having to eat something green. One trick: Make it a game. For instance, assign points for every time your child eats a vegetable. At the end of the month, they can use their points toward prizes, like extra TV time, a trip to the toy store, or if money is a bigger incentive, 25 cents per point.

7. Put. Down. Devices.

You've probably heard this one before, but it seems our addiction to electronics is getting worse and worse. Make this the year that you make a strict rule in your household: No phones, computers, and other devices at mealtime. It's amazing how refreshing and rewarding it is to have a conversation with actual eye contact. In other words, connect by disconnecting.

8. Stop texting and driving.

Seriously. We all know the dangers, but yet millions of people still do it (parents and teens alike!). Let's live another day to spend time together!

9. Help save the environment.

Take steps to become more eco-friendly as a family: Get your children involved in recycling, teach them to always turn off the water while they brush their teeth, and make sure everyone flips off the lights when they leave a room. Of course, don't forget to practice what you preach. Walk or ride bikes if possible instead of using your car to cut back on gas consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. Investigate other ways to help—there are plenty of options!

10. Nail down an emergency plan.

Make sure you know how every family member in your household (including your pets!) would stay safe in case of a fire, or depending on where you live, an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or other natural disaster. American Red Cross and the national Ready campaign both offer some very helpful tips. For instance, pick a meeting spot outside the house and know where you'll go and how you'll get there if you need to evacuate your area.

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