Helping Teens Create New Years Resolutions

January offers a clean slate and a new year of possibilities. Teens (and their adults) may take this time to set new goals and resolutions for the days ahead. While many of us are making exercise and diet a priority (I’m looking at you, holiday cookies!), there are many other self-improvement goals that are worthy and achievable.

“As human beings, setting milestones, achieving goals and visioning for yourself is a skill we need for a lifetime. I think it’s really important for kids to learn how to set goals, things that are achievable for them that move them forward,” said Philip D. Atkins, PhD, LICDC-CS, OCPC. Atkins is the Chief Care Coordinator Officer at Harbor of Toledo.

See more, hear more, feel more, do more

“I think the first thing we need to start with is a common vision. We use a really cool technique out of the Paxis Institute. It’s developing a unified vision of things we want to see more of, hear more of, feel more of and do more of. And then things we want to see less of, hear less of, feel less of, and do less of,” Atkins said.

Philip D. Atkins, PhD, is the Chief Care Coordinator Officer at Harbor of Toledo.

“If you are a parent working with your teen, that’s a really good place to start,” Atkins said. “Let’s talk about this year. Let’s focus on something about school. If we were having the best school year ever, what would that be? Get to know what your teen envisions for themselves. That gets to the positive as well as things that we want to change.”

A plan for success

Atkins offered some tips for parents and teens who are looking for ways to make the new year the best it can be.

Make goals small and specific:

“Make goals that are not just about improvement, but about attainment,” Atkins said. 

Break down goals for the month, the week, the day:

“Kids, and teens especially,  are very here and now. You have to make things that are super attainable,” Atkins said. 

Keep it small:

“Make goals that are not just about improvement but about attainment,” Atkins said. 

Keep it positive:

“I always like to say that we have to have five positive reinforcers for every one negative. If you water the weeds in your garden, you’re going to get more weeds. If you water the flowers, you are going to get more flowers. We want fewer weeds and more flowers,” Atkins said. 


“That’s just how kids work. We can celebrate and reward, not just with things, but with praise. Success really builds off success,” Atkins said. 

Keep it fun:

“Kids are used to games. There’s a lot of brain science around the gamification of goals. Offer tokens for more screen time, or dollars for a homecoming dress,” Atkins said. 


“Sometimes, the things that kids want are really simple. It’s great for us to clue into those things, like family rituals that are very important, such as a game night or Taco Tuesday. Those become the fun rewards,” Atkins said. 


“A year for a teen is practically a lifetime. We’re in a very real time world now. There have to be achievable milestones along the way that we stop and celebrate,” Atkins said. 


“You had a great month. What did that look like?”

“Don’t get too caught up in January. We put a lot of stock in January being different. But guess what?  It’s winter, it’s dark. That is the last time I want to give up Mac and Cheese. There is nothing magical about January, but there is magic in helping your kid identify that vision,” Atkins said. 

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