The New Year has rolled around again — seemingly ever faster. It feels as though we were just making our resolutions and plans for 2017 and here we are again. As always, the changing of the year provides an excellent time to reflect, and then to look forward.
Several years ago, we offered some thoughts about the qualities that make good New Year resolutions. If you’re a person who makes resolutions, we recommend reading our earlier article to see how your resolutions hold up.
But the problem with resolutions is that they often don’t hold up. We make plans and promises (notice all of the ads this month for weight loss and quitting smoking!) but for most of us, they fade away quickly. We’ve suggested resolutions in previous years, and we think they are still good suggestions for college parents.
But this year, we’re offering a slightly different list. Each item in the list — or each resolution — contains only one thing. They are, essentially, one-and-done resolutions. Do something once and you’ve completed your resolution. You don’t need to maintain a new habit; and you don’t need to feel guilty if you don’t. We’re offering 12 suggestions, so you might even consider one each month for the year, but we hope you don’t wait that long. And who knows, some might even become habits and stick in spite of it all.
So here’s our list of things to do this year. Try each one once and see what happens.
Read one book on college parenting. There are lots of good books out there in recent years that can help you with your job description. Start with just one. We have a list of recommended reading to get you started. Choose one book, read it, and see where it leads.
Have one conversation with your student where you mostly listen. Don’t pre-plan what you want to say or what you think needs to happen. Open a door, and then listen carefully, listen between the lines, listen for what’s behind the words. Talk a little, but listen much more. Give your student your undivided attention for as long as it takes. You may be surprised at the results.
Send one special care package to your student at school. Perhaps you have never sent a care package. Perhaps you have used a service that delivers care packages. Perhaps you send packages regularly. Take time to send a really special one sometime this year. Make it personal, fun, nostalgic. Infuse your personality. Think about your student’s interests and personality. Have fun.
Make one connection this year with an upcoming college parent. Think about what you’ve learned so far about your new role. What do you wish you had known starting out? What would have helped you — or your student? What wisdom can you pass along? Find someone who could benefit from that wisdom and share. Invite several parents to join you and make it an event. Pay it forward.
Do one new (parenting) thing this year. What have you planned to do but never gotten around to? What do you wish you’d done differently? Should you call/text your student less? More? Should you offer more advice? Less? Should you visit more? Encourage your student to stay on campus more and not come home as often? Can you visit a game or performance you haven’t attended before? What one thing can you do that is new or different?
Share one new thought with your student. Have you told your student how proud you are of her progress? Have you shared some of your college experiences with your student? Have you shared with your student why you chose the profession you have or why you chose the college you attended? What can you share that you haven’t before?
Thank one person for supporting your student. Is there someone who has given extra support to your student? Maybe someone at the college, or maybe at high school? Perhaps a neighbor or friend or relative that went an extra mile? Think of one person you’d like to thank and write a special note to them.
Have one budget or personal finance ”meeting” with your student. Take time to check in with your student about her financial literacy. Does she track her spending? Does she know how to set up a budget? Plan just one conversation (at least as a starter) to help her feel in control of her money.
Write one handwritten letter to your student. We rely so much on e-mail and text these days and that’s fine and convenient. But it means that a special, handwritten letter has that much more impact. It might not need to say anything profound, just taking the time to write is what matters.
Plan one activity, event, or trip with your student. Ask your student to help you plan. This might be a vacation, but might just be a spa day or special game or concert or even just a hike in the woods. Perhaps just two of you, no younger siblings, extended family or friends. Plan just one special time — or ask your student to plan something and surprise you!
Share one common goal with your student. Work together toward something and cheer each other on. Have you always wanted to run a 5K — or a marathon? Do you both want to lose some weight? Do you both want to save some money for something special? Find something you have in common and work together, train together, encourage each other.
Learn one new thing this year. Take up a new hobby. Learn a new skill. Find a new talent. Share with your student — or encourage your student to learn with you.
Take your time with these New Year’s suggestions. Don’t burn out in the first month. But try to do just one thing — and then another one thing — and then another — and see what happens. Repeat as needed. Find some ideas of your own. Guilt free. Have fun.
Happy New Year!