We had an exciting start to our Family Learning English class with the icy weather conditions. Our toddlers arrived, wrapped up snug, with just tiny eyes peering out from under warm blankets, hats and snoods! Mums arrived eager to share, learn and just catch up with everyone’s news. And we had some wonderful news to share. Our two expecting mums welcomed their first babies. Sarah welcomed a beautiful baby girl and Amal welcomed twin boys. Many congratulations to both families. We look forward to seeing them all back in our class in due course.

The first class of the New Year gave us the opportunity to talk about resolutions, or as one mum explained “a promise you make to yourself”. Indeed these promises have a have a long history. Over generations, the start of a calendar year has signalled a chance for self-improvement and a commitment to change.

The Babylonians began making promises at the start of each year. They believed that if they kept their word to the gods, they would have good fortune and luck for another 12 months. The Romans would make yearly resolutions to their god, Janus. They believed that Janus had two faces and could look both backward and forward into the future. After this, the medieval knights would make a pledge called a ‘Peacock vow’ at the start of a year, which showed their commitment to chivalry.

Today, we shared our commitment to many promises: to get fit, to walk more, to get healthy, to learn a new skill , to read more (my favourite) and to spend more time with the children by going out as a family at least twice a week – and not using bad weather as an excuse.

Although turning over a new leaf can seem straightforward, it isn’t always successful. We feel motivated to make changes, once the indulgence of the Christmas holidays is over, yet the majority of us have given up within the month. We therefore, looked at how setting SMART goals helps with achieving the ‘promise’

• Set specific goals –don’t be vague – make it specific and focused. You don’t need to commit to doing too much. By fitting in a small amount of walking, healthy eating or reading part of a book every day, you won’t need to make drastic changes to your life or rethink your routine.

• Measurable goals – identify exactly what you will see, hear feel and know when you reach your goal. Break the end goal down into small steps. This helps to refine the goal and makes it easier to achieve.

• Achievable – The goal needs to be realistic and attainable to be successful. It should stretch you, but still remain possible. Think about how you can realistically achieve the goal.

• Relevant and realistic.This ensures that you are setting a goal for yourself. Think about your motivations for achieving this goal. Who are you setting this goal for? What do you need to do to achieve this goal?

• Time-bound – be specific about the time-frame you have to achieve a goal. If a target date is not set to accomplish a specific goal, then there is no urgency to start taking action towards accomplishing that goal.

We know that both sharing your goal and writing it down helps with success. One mum reflected how she had used this and visualisation to book a family holiday last year. To visualise the promise, she put a picture of the destination on the fridge and shared her goal with the family. Doing this meant that everyone supported and contributed towards making the dream come true. Small change quickly collected in the ‘holiday fund’ and all the family shared the excitement of putting a small amount away each week and seeing it grow.

The start of the New Year saw the group start with new writing books and as part of our commitment to our ‘promises’ we all wrote down our promises on the first page. We look forward to continuing work on this next week.

We have a busy and exciting few weeks planned with visits to Balsall Heath Library, the New Central library, bookshops and a theatre visit. As part of our communication theme, we will also be setting up and using emails and exploring digital web-based resources. To find out more information or to join our class please call Fuazia Azad at Balsall Heath Children’s Centre

Hafsha D Shaikh

FLB New Year, New Start