How are your New Years resolutions going? We all make them—it’s part of the New Year’s tradition. We’re determined that this fresh New Year is the perfect time to resolve to do something that will leave us “better” or “different” than last year. The problem with resolutions is that they’re usually vague and end up abandoned by February or sooner.
So this year, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, try setting goals—goals that will strengthen the bonds with your grandchildren. The secret of success in fulfilling goals is more about setting them up and writing them down than willpower and determination. Sharing your goal with others, means you’re much more likely to accomplish it.
As a grandparent, you may set some goals for your relationship with your grandchild, but remember you need buy-in from the parents. Remember they are indispensable when it comes to having access to your grandchild. You may even want to sit down with your family and come up with some shared goals, for example, a three-generation family vacation or a family reunion.
When you write your goals, there’s a popular acronym for remembering the five essential qualities of a goal: SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Framed.
Nebulous wording makes goals confusing and overwhelming. Defeat sets in before you even start. Imagine that you say: “I will be a more involved grandmother.” There is no way to know if you reached this goal. But if you write, “I will send a letter to my granddaughter once a month,” or “Once a month I will learn one new song, story or game to teach my grandson,” then you will have a specific action that you must take each month and hold yourself accountable.
There’s an old saying: “What gets measured gets done.” When you make your goal measurable, you’re able to see your progress. So instead of saying: “I’m going to spend more quality time with my grandson,” you could say: “I will take my grandson fishing six times this year” or “I will take my granddaughter to three new museums this year.” Goals also need to be meaningful to you. That just insures that the goal you’re setting is something you want to do and not something imposed by someone else. Ask your grandchildren if they’d like to set a goal that both of you could work on together like starting a collection.
This doesn’t mean your goal is easy, but that you can have a good chance of accomplishing it, which again may mean getting buy-in from your grandchild’s parents. If your goal is to have your grandchild come for a sleepover, you’re obviously going to have to get permission from her parents. And that means establishing a trusting relationship with the parents from the very beginning. Sitting down with your adult children even before your grandchild is born and discussing your commitment as a grandparent creates a sense of trust and value in open communication that will be last a lifetime.
Realistic also means that the actions associated with your goal are things that you can actually do. If your goal is to get together with your grandchildren every weekend and they’re involved in too many activities of their own, then you’ll either have to set your goal lower or find a way to observe or participate in their activities. If that’s not realistic, then think about another avenue for staying connected with your grandchildren. You could take a computer class to learn how to stay in touch through email. Focus on your strengths and interests and how you might be able to share those with your grandchildren.
Having a time limit will give your goals structure. If your goal is to establish an education fund for your grandchild, you need to figure out how much money you want to contribute and by when.
Setting goals is more than deciding what you want to do. It involves figuring out what you need to do to get where you want to go and how long it will take you to get there. Here are some general suggestions when setting goals:
- Get working on your goals right now while you’re motivated.
- Take small steps when making changes.
- Develop a ritual for reviewing and updating your goals.
- Look at them once a month to check your progress.
- Be flexible – expect that your plan can and will change.
- Recognize partial successes at every step along the way.
- Be a good listener and open to feedback about your goal.
As grandparents, we can expect to be around for more than three decades, according to U.S. life expectancy. Our relationships will evolve as we all grow older. By setting some goals to strengthen your relationships now, you will build the foundation for future bonds. So get SMART! Take out some paper and pencil and write down your goals for 2009.