THE BLOG
02/29/2016 01:07 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2017

It's 2016: A New Year

Perhaps you, like many people started the year with a few resolutions. Not me. Now I consider my goals and decide what small steps I can take to reach those goals throughout the year. January is a great time to set goals, but February through December is when acting on them really counts. This year, I'd like to challenge you to consider some steps towards the goal of improving the lives of our children.

Imagine what would happen if:

Every parent/guardian read to their child(ren) 15 minutes a day.
According to reading specialist, Jim Trelease, "The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children. It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades."

We all have very busy lives, but there are ways to incorporate reading together. Keep a stack of books in the car and if you're waiting in a carpool line with your toddler, grab one. Waiting at a doctor's office? Bring a book. Fixing dinner? Ask an older sibling to take a few minutes to read with a younger child. Take advantage of "waiting time," and resist the temptation to pull out the electronics. And of course, a bedtime story is a great way to get those 15 minutes in.

Every parent/guardian hugged their child(ren) every day.
Hugs are healthy! Try a "Good morning" hug," a "Thank you" hug, an "I'm sorry" hug, and a "Good night" hug. There's plenty of research to show how important sincere hugs are for most children, but we must also respect the neuro-diversity of every child. If you have a child with sensory disorders, you may need to show your love in another way. A smile, a thumbs up, or a blown kiss could be the best approach.

No child in America went hungry.
The No Kid Hungry campaign says, "3 out of 4 teachers say their students regularly come to school hungry."

Keep an extra bag in the car. Every time you're in the grocery store, you can buy just one extra canned good or box of mac and cheese. If you have a child with you, explain to them about hunger and why you are buying extra food. With your child(ren) in tow, take the filled bag to a food pantry. You'll be teaching them how they can help.

Every child was exposed to some form of the arts every day.
Arts education has been disappearing for years, the result of tight budgets, a long list of state mandates that overly crammed the classroom curriculum, and an overall message that arts are not essential.

"There's lots of evidence that kids immersed in the arts do better on their academic tests," says Tom Horne, Arizona's superintendent of public instruction.

Instead of television, turn on music, any music. Maintain an arts and crafts area in the house. Visit the library and check out books for kids on the arts. There are plenty! Check out a book on Jackson Pollack and invite your child(ren) to create a Pollack-like masterpiece.

One of my grandson's favorite activities is to create a wacky character from his "costume attire" and then record a "show" or "dance" as this character.

Take advantage of the free performances in your community on the weekends. In addition, this can be a wonderful way to expose your child(ren) to diversity within the arts.

Every parent/guardian took the time to listen to their child(ren.)
To a child, everything they say, big or small is important.

Like so many other things, talking and listening are important skills. As with any skill, you get better with practice.

Encourage your child(ren) to talk with you, and look at them. Really listen and respond in a sensitive way. Watch their body language. Some kids are resistant to sharing their feelings. Model effective ways to do this. Share your feelings in an honest way.

"Today at work, my co-worker laughed when I tripped over the trash can. It really hurt my feelings." (Wait for response) If none ask, "What do you think I should do?" Let your child be part of the solution. When they do begin to share their perspective, give positive reinforcement. "Thank you for sharing that with me."

It's 2016 and we still have a lot of it left. Can you take some steps towards improving the lives of children?

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