Ready, Set, Goal: Motivating Your Teen Through the New Year

Teens often turn to their parents to help them brainstorm New Year’s resolutions, although they may get defensive if they feel like their parents are using a personal agenda or that they have high expectations that will “set them up to fail.” Ultimately, it is up to your teen to make and keep resolutions that are aligned with their goals. If your teen is struggling to envision what they want to work towards or resistant to changing their risky behaviors, there are many ways that you can try to motivate them to come up with personal goals.

What Role Should Parents Play In Helping Teens Set Goals?

In order to make the goal achievable, sit down with your teen and start planning out their teen New Year resolutions. This does not have to be a long or time-consuming process, but you can help them actually reach their goal by planning out actionable steps that they can take. 

Too many resolutions may make the entire process too difficult. Help them choose something that they are actually likely to want to do and then help them keep track of it. While you don’t want to nag, friendly reminders or actively participating in their goal will also help your teen along towards their goal, especially if their goal requires the participation or support of the family.

Some steps to take to help your teen keep their New Year’s Resolution:

  • Ask if they are ready to make changes in their lives. Often, teens genuinely want to experience changes in their lives but they struggle to find the motivation to invest in making these changes. Many teens start off the year with big goals that reveal the optimism and excitement that often come when starting something new. However, if they don’t take time to think about where they are starting, what their underlying reason for the goal might be, and if that goal is actually something they can control or achieve in the time you have or if you are you setting yourself up for disappointment.
  • Help them set intentions about what exactly they want to accomplish. For many teens, it is hard to imagine the steps they need to take to get from where they are to where they want to be. They tend to come up with “to-do” list goals rather than goals that they want to work towards. As a result, they may feel discouraged if their effort isn’t leading to measurable progress and give up altogether. Encourage them to break down their bigger goals into short-term goals that will build on each other. This can help them visualize the steps they need to take and understand how their goals may be related to an overall intention—to feel organized, successful, confident, happy.
  • Offer support as they reach their goals. While they may ask you to play a more active role in helping them come up with goals, it is not up to you to make sure that they follow through. Encourage them to journal about progress or keep a daily planner to empower them to take more responsibility for their goals. Ask what you can do to help while maintaining healthy boundaries. This may look like listening to them vent, providing positive feedback, and reminding them of the progress they’ve made.


Elevations RTC Can Help

If your teen is struggling with behavioral and emotional issues, even after setting positive goals, consider sending them to Elevations RTC, a residential treatment center for teens ages 13-17. We follow an intensive interdisciplinary approach that offers college preparatory academics, therapeutic recreation activities, and individual, family and group psychotherapy. Elevations gives students the skills and confidence they need to transition to the real world and lead healthy, happy lives.

For more information about Elevations RTC, please call