It’s a New Year!

It is always difficult for me to get used to writing a new year’s date. I get so comfortable with the old year’s date that I sometimes write it automatically. But writing a new date reminds me that the turning of the calendar is a great opportunity to take a fresh and creative look at the all-too-short time that we will spend with our young families.

This year my parents undertook the task of going through all our old family slides and movies and compiling them into a video. They presented my sisters and me with copies for Christmas. As I watched the years of my childhood sail across the television screen, I was hit by how much the times spent with my parents and grandparents have shaped me. I also saw how quickly the years of living with my childhood family were gone. Watching gave me renewed excitement about spending time with my own children — something I already do.

Perhaps it is difficult to spend as much rich time with your children as you would like. This is a great season to remember your own childhood and to think afresh about the childhood you want to give to your children. You may want to establish a new weekly tradition, such as all cooking breakfast together on Sunday morning. You may want to make a big change in your schedule. Have the courage to look honestly at what you deeply want and to take action toward it.

Sometimes time with our children feels endless and overwhelming. They have energy — we don’t! I often hear parents say they wish they had some of their children’s energy. Let me tell you a powerful secret. There is a way! The energy “transfusion” we need comes during those moments when we really connect with our children.

One way to powerfully connect with your children is to thoughtfully watch their spontaneous play. Then, take the initiative to engage them in these same types of activities. Give them new opportunities to hone these same skills. If you notice that your toddler is excited about jumping, take the initiative to jump with her, and take her to new environments where jumping is fun and appropriate (an old mattress, a sandy beach, a soft gym, an inflatable bounce room, a mini-tramp, a ball-room, a sand box at your local playground — go wild!). If your older child is enchanted by pretending, go on imaginary journeys together — and supply a few magical props (with a little imagination, an old towel can be a flying cape, a picnic basket can be a treasure chest, and a bag of dime-store beads can be precious jewels!).

Don’t let the jewel- days of your children’s youth be numbed away with too many hours in front of TV or video games. An hour or two a day can be good, but more than that can be a tragic waste of magical years, boundless energy, and childhood wonder. Get them up, get them moving, get them reading, get them using their creativity, get them playing, get them working. Don’t let them spend their childhoods as zombies; instead let these years be full of the juice of life.

As each new year begins, I am amazed by the passage of time. I remember as a child hearing adults talk about how quickly time was “flying by.” At the time, that didn’t really make sense to me, but now . . .

May you have a happy and successful year as a parent.

Medical Review on: April 28, 2008
About the Author
Photo of Dr. Alan Greene
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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