Dear Patti, 

My teenage daughter, Layla, is very intelligent but a bit of a cynic for someone so young. When I asked her what her New Year’s resolution was going to be for 2018, she disdainfully pointed out that everybody we know—including our whole family—always fails at staying committed to their yearly resolutions. She, therefore, doesn’t see the point in creating goals that are already doomed. 

I realize she’s probably half kidding but, seriously, I don’t want Layla to give up on growing and improving before she even tries. How do I support and inspire my daughter to pick a New Year’s resolution, stick with it and successfully reach her goal?

  — Evelyn 

Dear Evelyn,   

Layla is correct. Many Americans embrace the tradition of promising themselves major changes at the beginning of a new year and yet are unable to sustain the momentum needed throughout the year. A recent research study about New Year’s resolutions showed that only 12 percent of participants actually achieved their goals. While time, difficulty and distractions factor heavily in the abandonment of these promises we make to ourselves, some of the problem can also be traced to not having a clear vision to begin with. 

The most common promises people make to themselves every Jan. 1 include:

• Lose weight

• Quit addictive habits

• Change careers

• Re-awaken dormant talents

• Stick to a budget

• Improve personal relationships

• Achieve a long-held dream 

• Exercise more

• Travel to new places

Once Layla looks these over, have her write down her own list of resolutions. Encourage her to focus on her desire to make her life better, a chance for renewal and a dream of a new self that resonates deep inside of her. Then, prioritize what’s most important and make a definite decision on what she wants to change about her life and truly change it. Guide Layla through a thoughtful self-analysis to determine what’s most important to her and narrow the list down to five. These five objectives should be the ones that make her feel the most hopeful, excited, renewed and positive. These goals should be the ones that are important to her, not what others expect of her.    

Next, have her create a resolution calendar marked with clear small achievements as part of reaching her yearly goals, keeping her on track and giving her the confidence to continue. She should keep this calendar along with her written list of resolutions in a highly visible place to serve as a reminder of the new strategies she’s incorporating into her life. On her calendar should be scheduled a time each week dedicated to monitoring the results and making adjustments. Remind her to keep to a steady course and celebrate when she reaches each milestone of success. 

Personally remember to celebrate her successes with recognition, compliments and support.

Encourage your daughter to keep developing a strong-willed inner voice that supports and matches her dreams. Monitor her thinking and make sure it matches with the intention of her resolutions. Respect her and back her up to never stop dreaming. Support her to achieve her resolution one day at a time for one year. In order to be successful, she will need focus, personal accountability and persistence. One’s life is a work in progress. Visualize and talk with her about how amazing it will be to have her goals completed. Change of any kind is challenging, but if she persists with small steps and appreciates each accomplishment she makes, the results will be well worth the effort and rewarding along the way. 

If you find that she slacks off, make sure she doesn’t become self-critical. Assist her to just get back to following through on her goals. Resolutions are set in one day but implemented with small steps that happen throughout the whole year. By working on her goals all year long, your daughter can be one of the few able to say that she really did keep her New Year’s resolution. 

In the words of Confucius, “It doesn’t matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.” 

Happy New Year! 

Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email Visit her website,