Cheung Family Motto, what’s yours?

Let’s talk New Year’s resolutions. Not the personal ones like exercising more or procrastinating less. Those we know, love or hate, but we make them anyway as a matter of routine come every January.

I’m talking about resolutions we make as a family (whatever that unit looks like). We assume we’re all on the same page with our understanding and actions, but are we really?

From experience, sitting down to talk about what we want for the coming year is worth every minute away from the TV, computer, Wii, Nintendo DS, cell phone and every mobile hotspot in the house. Think of it more like an essential annual checkup.

We began this tradition when our son was in preschool and we always start with reviewing and recommitting to our family motto.

Our motto has served us well, having been repeated countless times whenever we’ve faced a difficult situation, from taking a test to going to a job interview.

If a family checkup sounds like something you’d like to do, here’s what I’d recommend:

Get a large sheet of paper and lots of colored pens to create your motto. Let everyone have a say in what goes into it, as they have to commit to it. When you’ve finalized it, display it visibly and get everyone to repeat it often until it doesn’t feel awkward.

Next, discuss individual goals for the year. You’ll be surprised, with a little prompting, how vocal children can be about their goals. Give them space to let their imaginations roam–write down their goals, so they see they’re being taken seriously–before you rein them in with a little caution about realistic goals and deadlines.

Discuss expectations–what we do need from each other? Misunderstandings stem from not talking clearly about what we want from each other. Are these expectations reasonable?

Discuss concerns and fears. Even now, when I’m stressed, my long-held fears hold sway, so imagine how immense such concerns are for children. Talking about them makes them more manageable and people don’t feel alone. Oftentimes, it’s hard for men to share their fears, as they’re taught from a young age to be the strong ones. When our kids realize that Daddy is anxious about stuff too, they know its okay to talk openly about their fears.

Discuss upcoming events like travel and road trips over the year. These are fun things to plan together. Involve your kids in saving up for these trips.

Discuss what individuals want to buy and how to save for them. My kids want another Nook tablet so, as with their current one, we’ll discuss how they’ll save up for half the cost. It’s important for me to teach them how to save for important things. It makes them take responsibility and stops their feelings of entitlement.

Discuss how we can help our neighbors, school, community and wider society. One of the great things we plan each year is our family lemonade or hot chocolate stand. We sell home-made cookies, bookmarks and scarves. The money we raise is donated for a good cause chosen by the kids. This is a great way for us to bond as a family.

Lastly, always discuss the FUN things to do together over the coming year.

Susan Shifay Cheung

Susan Shifay Cheung has turned her hand to many forms of writing in her various roles, over the years, as corporate trainer, management consultant, journalist and writer. You can contact her at