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Make 2012 the year your family comes together
Dyer: More reading, more sharing a priority
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Although many people think of the beginning of the year as a time to implement resolutions geared toward self-improvement, it never hurts to look at the bigger picture.

Now is also a great time to assess your household and set a few goals for improving your family structure in 2012.

Merrianne Dyer, superintendent of Gainesville City Schools, has a few suggestions for areas of consideration.

"One thing that comes to mind is the information from research on literacy and the importance of spending time talking with children, sharing books and experiences together," Dyer said.

While looking to make improvements, parents shouldn’t overlook the importance of having a home collection of books for the family to share.

"Even affluent homes neglect this with the use of videos or video games in the car and home," Dyer said.

Family goals don’t have to be anything monumental.

Maybe you’ll start a family scrapbook where everyone gets to do their own page. Or vow to volunteer as a group with a local nonprofit once a month. Or maybe you’ll decide to sit down for more group dinners.

"My husband works the late shift at his job, so most of the time, it’s just me and my daughter for dinner," said Kelly James, a Gainesville mother of a sixth-grader.

"I cook dinner during the week, but she usually eats in the family room in front of the TV and I’ll eat at my desk as I respond to emails. The other night, I sat at the breakfast bar in the kitchen and she sat with me.

"I always ask her about her day when I pick her up from school, but I usually get one-word answers. That day, we had each other’s undivided attention and really talked. It was nice. I want us to connect like that more often."

If fostering healthier family relationships is on your to-do list for this year, try creating a regular time for everyone to come together.

Evening walks and visits to your local park not only give you a chance to get moving, they can also help children build a greater appreciation for nature.

If you resolve to be more physically active with your family this year, but the weather works against you, no worries. You can always turn on some music in the house and have a 20-minute family dance party.

"My 3-year-old loves watching, ‘Yo Gabba Gabba.’ They have a segment called Dancey Dance Time, where they all do their special dance move," said Joan Wallace, a Gainesville resident.

"Whenever they get to that part, no matter what he’s doing, he jumps up and dances with them. He likes it when I do it with him. He grins and says, ‘Mama, dancey dance.’

"I’ve started letting each of the kids pick a song for us all to dance to after dinner. They love it because they get to be silly, and I love it because it helps to wear them out before bed."