Helping Teens Set New Year’s Resolutions

The new year is approaching, and many of us are making our annual New Year’s resolutions 一 goals we hope to consistently work toward in the coming year. Whether they are big or small, short- or long-term, having goals can be an important part of maintaining a healthy and meaningful life.

Goal-setting is especially important for adolescents. Teenagers are in a stage of life where everything is changing, and the future for them can feel unpredictable. Choosing, and consistently working towards, goals is a critical life skill that will set your teens up for future success. Helping your teen set New Year’s resolutions is a great way to encourage them to start practicing this valuable skill.

Here are some quick tips on how to help your teen set meaningful and appropriate goals in 2022.

Why is this important?

  • Research has shown that goal-setting in adolescence is linked to a higher likelihood of accomplishing career and family goals in adulthood.
  • Having goals helps your teen to have focus and a sense of direction in their lives.
  • Goal-setting can increase your teen’s self-awareness and self-efficacy. It can also build self-esteem.
  • For teens who receive mental health support, setting goals increases the likelihood that they attend and stay in treatment.
  • Goal-setting interventions can also improve your teen’s physical health behaviours, including eating a healthier diet and exercising more. This improves their overall health.
  • Setting goals, and persevering through hardships to accomplish them, builds resiliency for teens and adults alike.

How to help teens set New Year’s resolutions:

  • Make sure your teen’s goals are truly their own, and not yours. Sure, there might be some expectations that you expect your teen to follow through with this year (like being kinder to their siblings or improving their school performance, for example). But make sure you help your adolescent make goals that are only theirs, apart from your expectations of them. What do they want their year to look like?
  • Use your teen’s values to help them set goals. If your teen isn’t sure of what they want to accomplish, help them to identify their core values. Then, help them to figure out what kind of changes they’d like to make in their life to bring them closer to living out these values.
  • Encourage your teen to make their resolutions as specific as possible. Specificity is one of the hallmarks of a “SMART goal,” a popular mnemonic that’s often used to help people set goals they’re more likely to stick to. For example, instead of “Be happier,” a better, more specific goal for your teen might be “Find a way to laugh every day,” or “Make one new friend.”
  • Remind your teen that progress isn’t linear. It’s okay, and normal, to take steps back on some days. Helping your teen measure and record their progress every day will help them realize, by the end of the year, that although their progress hasn’t been in continuous forward motion, they still made several strides toward their goals.


Click here to download this tip sheet in PDF format.


Cairns, A.J., Kavanagh, D.J., Dark, F. et al. (2019). Goal setting improves retention in youth mental health: a cross-sectional analysis. Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health 13(31).

KidsHealth Behavioral Health Experts (n.d.). 5 Facts About Goal Setting. Nemours KidsHealth. Retrieved from

Lee, B., & Vondracek, F. W. (2014). Teenage goals and self-efficacy beliefs as precursors of adult career and family outcomes. Journal of vocational behavior, 85(2), 228–237.

Resilience. British Columbia Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. Retrieved from
Shilts, M.K.,Townsend, M.S. (2012). A Goal Setting Intervention Positively Impacts Adolescents’ Dietary Behaviors and Physical Activity Self-Efficacy. Journal of Youth Development, 7(4), 92-108.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published