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New Years Resolutions for Teens: Intentions for the Year

The year is wrapping itself up quickly, and like many of you, I’m already beginning to think ahead to what the next year might feel like.

I’ve never been big on a New Year’s resolution, but one of my favorite New Year traditions is to participate in a VisionSPARK retreat led by my friend, author, and mentor, Rosie Molinary. At Rosie’s three-hour workshop every January, I set my intention for the upcoming year with a single word. Because I am limited to one thought that will encapsulate for the coming year, I must choose wisely a word that is broad enough to touch upon many aspects of my life yet specific enough to inspire meaningful change. I then use my word throughout the year to focus my decisions, abate my fears, or initiate my own action.

Now that my kids are in middle school, they’re old enough to practice, even to appreciate, the abstract thinking that goes into planning for such a broad period of time. More importantly, they’re at the perfect age to learn to take more responsibility for their fate.

Modifying Our New Year’s Resolutions

Middle schoolers often feel as though they lack any control over their lives. I remember how helpless I felt to the whims of my adolescent body, moods, friends or “enemies” in middle school. This year, my family will spend time together reflecting on this past year and wondering what within their own control might make the coming year even better.

Begin by asking your kids what they enjoyed most about this past year. Then, ask what they wish had been better. Adults can choose a single word to represent their intention for the year, words like “balance,” “engage,” or “connection.” But for kids who can’t appreciate the richness of this vocabulary yet, you might focus on a phase instead. Make small New Year’s Resolutions. For the kid who worries too much, try “don’t sweat the small stuff.” For the kid who experienced troubled friendships try “make the connection.” You get the idea.

Once you’ve all chosen your words or phrases, you can write them down in a journal, on a bundle of rocks, or as a screensaver. Your mantra becomes a yearlong reminder that you sail through the year as captain of your ship, not a passenger unaware of your destination. A new New Year’s Resolution.

Michelle Icard

Michelle Icard is the author of Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years. Learn more about her work with middle schoolers and their parents at

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