by: Michael Kabel

With the holidays drawing to a close and the new year stretching out before you like an open road, it's a great time to begin planning fresh starts for you and your family. The traditional New Year's resolutions - lose weight, get in shape, and so on - are easily expanded to help you and your kids set and accomplish goals that can really improve your quality of life. The five resolutions presented below will help your family organize your new ambitions. It's also important to discuss them with your spouse and children together (They're a good reason for a New Year's Day family meeting.)

Take a trip somewhere each month.

Spending time together can feel stale if you just sit around the house. Getting in the car and going someplace new - a historic site, the local museum of history or science, or even a local state park - creates a new setting and a new set of experiences for everyone.

Parents should schedule the trip a couple of weeks in advance, even leaving a reminder on the kitchen refrigerator or the family message board. And once the date is fixed, it should remain so: no backing off or rescheduling because work or other distractions make the trip inconvenient.

Spend less time around the tube.

You knew this one was coming! It's a perennial resolution basically because it's so hard to keep. But television viewing is time otherwise spent exercising, reading, or working on hobbies that enrich the mind and body.

It's misguided (and impractical) to attempt removing all television from your family's routine. Instead, try to limit the hours of the day that the television is on, and make the programs themselves more educational. Skip the reality TV, talent shows and game shows, and watch more of the science and learning channels. Stay fast to the resolution by not making exceptions for special event programming ("live" events, season finales, et cetera.)

Make spring cleaning a year round occasion.

Lots of families suffer from clutter, or too much stuff, lying around the house. With so many people living under one roof, over time the closets, drawers and cabinets become overwhelmed with everyday items.

A cluttered house is not just uncomfortable, it's also not altogether sanitary. Remove the overflow from your house by cleaning out and disposing of what's not needed. As a rule, if it's not something used every two weeks or more, you can probably safely discard it.

Get a new hobby that gets everyone out of the house.

This one closely relates to resolution number one, except in this case your family makes a commitment to doing something creative on your excursions. You might wish to join a local charity such as Habitat for Humanity or a local food bank. Maybe your local public television station needs volunteers. A historic society in your area might need members for their next re-enactment.

The point is to get everyone out together and working towards a common goal. Whatever your family decides to act upon, you'll all need to work at it consistently and agree to do so before beginning.

Tell your kids where you came from.

Many parents are surprised by what their children don't realize about them. Yet, kids enjoy and need to understand their family history and their background in order to help mold their sense of identity.

Talk more with your children about your family history and lore. What was life like when you were their age?  How were things different? What was their grandfather or grandmother like when they were young? Where did they live? If you grew up in a different city or part of the world, tell your children about that place. It will help them get a sense of perspective of their own time and place in the world – which is a fine way to begin any new year.