Becoming the best versions of ourselves is a lifelong journey, one which I firmly believe starts with the values and habits we form growing up. And as we enter 2024, the new year feels like a clean slate — a time to take stock of the progress we’ve made and chart a path forward, not only for ourselves but for our families and children as well. If you’re an organized, goal-oriented family who thrives on checking off to-do lists, traditional New Year’s resolutions might very well work for you and your kids. But if you’re anything like me, and your resolutions get completely forgotten come February, shifting your focus towards the little steps it takes to make long-term change can take the pressure off.
I appreciated this Psychology Today article, in which the author makes a case for setting intentions rather than resolutions in the new year. Intentions require us to think more deeply about our values and priorities, the things that make us happy and give us purpose. Rather than stressing over specific tasks and strict deadlines (and feeling that dreaded sense of failure when life inevitably gets in the way), intentions allow us to refocus our efforts and take small, sustainable steps toward the person we wish to become.
Especially as kids enter their tween years, knowing oneself, gaining confidence and learning to set achievable goals become all the more important. To that end, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite titles to encourage kids on their self-improvement journey.
“Be the Dragon” by Catherine J. Manning
For all the “Wings of Fire” fans out there, this book is sure to unleash the dragon within! In “Be the Dragon,” friendly fire-breathers of all different types guide young readers on a quest to uncover their inner magic. As kids journey through quizzes, journaling prompts and character-building activities, they’ll begin to recognize all the amazing things that make them who they are. Readers unlock new powers like kindness, determination and self-love and pursue quests to increase their bravery rating, making the reading experience feel like a video game. Find your roar with a little help from these fantastical, charming dragons!
“Dream Big! How to Reach for Your Stars” by Abigail Harrison
Like many kids, Abby Harrison dreamed of becoming an astronaut. She started taking small steps to reach her goal, like attending a space camp, studying Russian and Mandarin, and even learning to scuba dive! Now she’s a science communicator and the founder of The Mars Generation, slowly but surely ticking off her astronaut to-do list. In her book “Dream Big!,” Harrison shares her wisdom for turning a dream into a plan, facing fears and setbacks and finding balance in life. I love that this self-help book treats young people and their goals with all the respect they deserve. While the rest of the world may try to quash their dreams, this book charts a manageable path for ambitious kids who shoot for the stars.
“How To Be a Person” by Catherine Newman
The new year may bring newfound independence for your tween. If that’s the case, “How to Be a Person” is packed with tips to get started! From social skills to cleaning tips, this compact how-to guide covers all the grown-up skills they don’t teach you in school. Kids will learn to make a phone call, whip up a quick meal, manage spending money, do their own laundry and much, much more! Simple and straightforward instructions make picking up new skills a breeze, and there are plenty of pictures and humor to keep things light. Even I, a twenty-something, came away with some helpful tips. There’s no such thing as a silly question when it comes to becoming a person!
“Just Be You” by Mallika Chopra
In the introduction to “Just Be You,” author Chopra recognizes all the changes that come with tweendom. Growing up doesn’t just mean body changes; it also means coming into your own, discovering who you are and what makes you special. As kids complete introspective exercises at their own pace, they’ll build skills like goal-setting and mindfulness. Reflective questions encourage kids to adopt a growth mindset and begin unpacking their values, fears and anxieties, even cultural identity and religious beliefs. I was so encouraged by the thoughtful inclusivity of this book; its examples and illustrations represent a wide variety of identities, backgrounds and abilities, ensuring that nearly every child can see themselves reflected in this guide to knowing and loving themselves.