By Dr. Jan Hittelman

The last several years have been highlighted by challenging times for us as individuals, a community, a country, and a planet. Financial hardships affected most of us and our country continues to be at war. For many families, the sacrifices have been overwhelming. The beginning of a new year offers us the opportunity to reflect and re-evaluate our priorities – a time to look within and focus on what’s really important.

When we look back on our lives, few things have as much importance, influence, or meaning as our families. While friends may come and go, family is one of the few constants in our lives. Because we often take what we have for granted, we may not focus much on our day-to-day family lives. Make the New Year an opportunity to really spend quality time with those we love, letting them know how important they are to us, and strengthening our bonds.

We’ve all heard the stories of people who, told they have a limited time to live, decide to dramatically change their lives in order to truly pursue what’s important to them. Erik Erickson, a renowned developmental psychologist, theorized a life stages model of identity development with challenges at different life stages. In the final stage of life, during old age, he discussed “integrity versus despair.” More specifically, that we would look back on our lives with a sense of integrity based on our accomplishments or be left with a sense of despair if we had many regrets and/or felt that our lives were wasted. When we are at the end of our lives, few things have as much importance or meaning as families. Now is the time to make sure that when you look back on your life, you will experience the peace and wisdom that come with a life of integrity. Because family is such an important part of our lives, make this year the year of the family.