Archive for the ‘holidays’ category

Presents or Presence?

December 19, 2011

your presence is the best gift you can bestow upon your children. Forget presents. Give them 3 from santa. Encourage your entitled kids to give each other gifts of time. This will require slowing down and spending time with each other without electonics. Kids can learn to play, spend time together without video games.When my oldest daughter began spending time with her high school boyfriend’s family, she announced, “We don’t have any traditions.

The best gift you can exchange in your family is time.  Some of my favorite gifts of all time have been certificates for experiences and deeds done together.

Give them three gifts from Santa and spend the rest of the day cultivating a holiday tradition that will last long after the batteries die out from the high-tech gifts. Here are some of my favorite simple traditions.

  • Take a long walk in the woods or in a park on Christmas Day.
  • Make a special treat together, like cinnamon buns, Christmas cookies or hot cocoa.
  • Build a fire inside or out and sing carols and other songs. Kids of all ages LOVE fire. Even if it’s frigid outside, spend some time together gathering firewood and creating the fire pit. This memory will last much longer than any gift you will ever purchase.
  • Play some games together that don’t require electricity. Cards, dodge ball, ping-pong, board games, charades, make up a skit, let your imagination go.
  • Do a craft together, even if it’s messy. Keep it simple or not. Have fun.

Be present with your kids. SHUT OFF your electronics when you’re with them and ask them for the same courtesy.

Slow down and make the days last. It might seem like your kids will never grow up. The days will morph into years, and they will leave home sooner than you can believe. Childhood will be sealed in a time capsule that can never be revised. The special memories can be retrieved and relived.

What are some of your family traditions?

PS — If you have a difficult child, spending 5 to 15 minutes a day with him or her can dramatically change your relationship and their behavior. Choose the positive attention as prevention, instead of negative detention afterwards.

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Cultivate holiday happiness and gratitude

December 12, 2011

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude during this holiday season to reduce christmas stress. Teach children how to appreciate what we have instead of going nuts buying stuff. Discipline is tough around the holidays. kids are so excited. Tots to teens can't stand the anxiety of Santa Claus, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza and whatever else you celebrate. Have a family meeting. TAlk about what holiday traditions mean to you.Readers, you know I love chores and what they teach children. Christmas can be one big chore that leads to stress, depression, and of course, taking out frustration by yelling at the kids.

It’s not their fault that we’re in the midst of one of the biggest marketing campaigns and traditions in the world. They can’t help their excitement and anticipation of the big day because it’s so exciting!

Have empathy that your tots-to-teens are going crazy waiting for the biggest day of the year.

Come to Littleton tonight, Monday, Dec. 12, 7-9 pm for a parents forum on reducing holiday stress. See previous blog post for directions. It’s only $15 if you RSVP to susan @ susantordella dot net. Bring a friend and it’s only $20 for two.

Here are three suggestions to defuse the holiday stress, that we women mostly heap on ourselves, in response to impossible standards set by the media, that we internalize. Martha Stewart has a crew of dozens to create her “effortless” crafts, meals and decorations. No one can live up to those ridiculous benchmarks.

1. Make peace with yourself and quit doing so much decorating, cooking, baking, partying, eating, celebrating, buying and whatever else makes you crazy this time of year. Celebrating Christmas is optional! How much you celebrate it is up to you. Don’t feel obliged to get everyone in your life a gift, especially your kids’ teachers. They don’t need all of that stuff. If you want to give something, give school supplies they might purchase with their own money or donate a book to the school library or to someone who needs it.

2. Have a family meeting. Find out what traditions the kids like and/or want to create, then do it. It might mean staying home and making and decorating Christmas cookies together instead of going to “The Nutcracker.” Simple is best. Make hot cocoa and sing holiday songs by the fire. Play games from last December that are in the closet. Take some time to decorate the tree together. Slow down. Don’t rush. Be grateful. Cook some traditional holiday foods together. You are creating memories.

Remember that holding regular family meetings is the greatest gift you give to your family because they reinforce everything you want your kids to be — connected, capable, confident, respectful and fun.

3. Make a list of gratitudes. At the family meeting, ask everyone to make a list of things they are grateful for. Either put the list on the Christmas tree or near the Menorah, or write the gratitudes down on index cards. You can cut the cards into simple holiday shapes and make a hole at the top to hang them on the tree with a twist tie, yarn or wire ornament hangers. They can be as simple as, “I’m glad we have a dog.” “Visits to grandma.” “My Legos.” “Good health.” “Family.”

There are less than two weeks to go until the biggest day of the year. Enjoy it as it comes and then goes away for another year.

Thanksgiving Day can last all year round

November 21, 2011
family dinner is one of the best ways to connect with each other at tHanksgiving and every other day of the year. Family dinner with toddlers, preschoolers, school age, tweens, teens, teenagers and adolescencts means less drug abuse, less alcohol and tobacco abuse. Family dinner is one of the best ways to connect with your teens and children and keep them off the street and out of trouble. Family dinner is  place to absorb manners, values and behavior.
Family dinner isn’t only for Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving on Thursday is the ultimate family dinner of the year. Thanksgiving is a reminder to keep family dinner — or breakfast — sacred, even if your kids/teens resist.

Every family dinner will not be perfect. I can remember many the argument among the kids or me falling prey to a power struggle with my oldest daughter during a family dinner. Family dinners are worth the effort even if they’re not Thanksgiving Day-perfect because they keep kids connected to us.

When kids have a strong connection to parents they are less likely to use and abuse drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Study after study has demonstrated the efficacy of family dinner. This study is famous and persuasive.
Having family dinner or breakfast three or more times a week connects families AND it insures kids receive better nutrition.

Family dinner benefits kids socially, psychologically and physically. How can you go wrong? Start with the goal of having one family dinner a week. Use a family meeting to get the kids involved in planning, preparing and cleaning up the dinner so it doesn’t all fall on mom’s or dad’s lap. Encourage your kids to cook something for the dinner, either with you or independently, depending on their age. Make it their responsibility to help clean up.

Make family dinner or breakfast a habit. Turn off the electronics (parents, too), tell stories, look at each other, enjoy and appreciate each other and the food. Fight if you must — it shows you are emotionally connected. Take the time to resolve it, too, and come up with a plan to keep the peace during dinner.

Thanksgiving Day tips for families

1. Remember to involve the kids and teens when getting ready for the big meal this week. It won’t feel like a chore when they are contributing with the adults to create a wonderful meal, day and memory. The kids will feel connected, capable and creative.

2. Don’t force them to eat anything. Offer new foods and keep a neutral expression if they reject them. You can say, “Taste buds change.”

3. Teach them before Thursday how to say, “No thank you,” instead of, “Yuck, I hate that!” and how to say, “Aunt Sue, please pass the butter,” instead of standing up to get it. Even little kids can learn basic manners when parents model them.

Thanksgiving: The ultimate family dinner

November 14, 2011
Manners are a big part of family dinner. Children tweens and teens can learn to behave at family dinner table at Thanksgiving. Good manners start at home. Make it a game. Make it fun. Thanksgiving can be a relaxing time for families. Manners are a good chore to have in Mass., CT, MA , NH, RI and VT.
Children can live up — or down — to our expectations.

Just looking at the table pictured above would have given me a stomach ache if I had to bring my four kids there.

The best way to prepare for such a situation is to practice. If you’re worried about Thanksgiving at the home of a friend, relative or to a restaurant with your kids, start with a rehearsal.
Have a family meeting. Ask the kids for ideas on how to behave at a fancy meal. Write down every idea, however ridiculous, and take the best ones seriously. Then announce you’re going to have a rehearsal for Thanksgiving, using their suggestions. Would they help? Set a date and plan a simple meal, maybe a roast chicken.

Enlist their aid in getting out a nice tablecloth, the best china, silverware and glassware. Remember, a broken spirit is more permanent than a broken goblet. Let them drink from a special glass and use cloth napkins for the evening. Propose some toasts. Exaggerate. Go overboard on the manners. Use an English accent. Make it fun. Kids love fun. Whenever you can make something fun, you will have them eating out of your hand.

Parenting is all about setting reasonable expectations and managing people’s behavior — getting them to do what you want, when you want, just like at work. The best managers are kind, firm, clearly spell out what they expect, and if necessary, train you on how to do it.

Clearly spell out what you expect from your kids on Thanksgiving at Aunt Sue’s. Then practice it. Encourage the behavior you like by saying what they did. “What a nice way to ask for the mashed potatoes, Megan! Of course I’ll pass them to you. Where did you learn such lovely manners?”

They won’t be perfect, and you always remind them on Thanksgiving when they slip, “Remember how we practiced? How can you ask nicely for the mashed potatoes?”

A dress rehearsal combined with realistic expectations from parents will make the day go more smoothly.

The yin-yang of school vacation

December 15, 2010
yin yang of college students brings changes for parents and children. LEarning to roll with the developmental stages of college students and teenagers and life is a skill. Discipline and family meetings and structure are a part of getting along with college students who come home.

Kristen prepared this delicious dinner of macaroni and cheese, carrot raisin salad and a green salad. Yum.

One of the hardest parts of life and parenting is the constant development and change, and eventual growing up and leaving home by children. When parenting is hard and we have to put our own needs second, it’s hard to stay in the present moment and enjoy the age and stage of our children.

Childhood sometimes feels like it moves like a turtle, then all of a sudden, it has flown away like an eagle and the nest is empty.

When Kristen, 22, comes home from graduate school for holidays and Ian, 26, temporarily roosts here between seasons of organic farming, it feels wonderfully familiar and good. That’s the Yin.

The Yang is, “They left the kitchen dirty AGAIN! What happened to my routines and my food!?” And again after they leave, “I have way too much food in the fridge,” “I’ve gotten used to them being here. The house and my heart feel stripped, quiet and abandoned.”

The Yin-Yang of children living with us and growing up is part of the constant change of life’s seasons. Adjusting to empty nest is often under-rated in significance. It is a HUGE change.

For those of you with little ones, you have regular milestones where they don’t need you as much. Giant steps in development accumulate regularly. My mother said, “Babies need mothers less and less every day from birth forward.” Very true.

They stop nursing, start walking then start school and day care. Later on, their friends become more important and they stop talking to parents as much. Tweens and teens spend more time at school, work and with friends. The increasing separation during the high school years prepares us for the final separation.

The four to six years of revolving door to and from college is fraught with adjustment. As soon as I get used to them being here, they’re gone.

The good news is that we have some agreements on living together, will share in the cooking and cleaning, and enjoy the present moment for as long as we have it. It feels good to have family dinner together again.

The past is history         The future is a mystery

So we must celebrate the gift of the present

How do you de-stress the holidays?

December 10, 2010

mrs. claus gets none of the credit for making Christmas happen. Christmas stress can affect everyone in the family. High expectations, over spending, over partying and over sleeping causes a lot of stress around the holidays. Children need a break from all of the GO GO GO . Stop the engines and do less

I heard another strategy to reduce the load on Mrs. Claus/Martha Stewart/moms this month and I’m going to do it: instead of a big dinner, serve appetizers, desserts and finger food on Christmas Day.

My kids were always too excited to eat any special Christmas breakfast, so why not set up a day of grazing?

When I was a child, my parents played Santa to their nine children. So they stuffed the stockings with Pop Tarts, mini-boxes of cereal, nuts and a gigantic navel orange, all of which were treats bought only on Christmas.

It eased the stress and cost of filling up nine stockings, and I looked forward to the contents of the stockings.

Other ways I’ve quarantined the Ho Ho Virus that makes everyone crazy this time of year: I retired from Christmas cards and mailing a holiday newsletter and photo. I might email a short update on how we’re doing and call some old friends in lieu of a holiday card.

How are you and your family de-stressing the holidays in the coming weeks?

Happy Turkey Day

November 25, 2010
FAmily time is pizza time. Family dinner is every night of the week not just Thanksgiving. It's where you learn etiquette and manners and connect to your family, and feel like you belong. It is the best anti-drug, anti-smoking, anti-alcoohol strategy. Family time will keep your child out of trouble. Teens, tweens, and teenagers need family time. Making homemade Pizza is a great way to spend time together.

Ian creating one of his specialities -- home-made pizza. I think it is better than Thanksgiving dinner.The view of our kitchen yesterday afternoon. Chaos! Fun! Delicious!

 
 YAY Thanksgiving! Yay family time! What a great excuse to get together and spend time with each other.
 
Not everyone’s holiday is as happy today. There is a story in today’s Boston Globe about the cancellation of the annual Maynard-Clinton Thanksgiving Day Game in Massachusetts. School officials cancelled the game after four of the squad’s 16 players were caught drunk over the previous weekend.
 
People are disappointed and some think the consequence is too harsh. I disagree. How will these young men learn that their decisions have repercussions? That what they do has an impact on others.
 
The incident is a wake-up call for the players’ parents. How do these young men get the alcohol? Where is the parental supervision? I can only guess that some parents are really angry over the decision and think their teen has been treated unfairly.
 
By behaving irresponsibly, the young men let their team, school and community down. Hopefully, they will learn from this experience and it will benefit them. When young people never feel the impact of their choices, their behavior escalates. The school’s decision is related, respectful and reasonable [thanks to Jane Nelsen, Ph.D. for those three Rs of natural and logical consequences.]
When punishment is used, youngsters can respond with rebellion, resentment and revenge. When the consequence is fair — I’m sure those players knew the rules — young people learn to accept the responsibility for their behavior.
 
The way to learn to make better decisions is to feel the pain from bad decisions. If we don’t feel pain, we don’t learn. These young men have gotten enough rope to burn, but not enough to hang. I volunteer in prison where men are serving long sentences for making disastrous, even fatal choices. They have much time to contemplate their mistakes on this special day.
 
Enjoy your holiday today.
 
Here is our family working together to get thankgiving dinner all ready. We cooked for a few hours together in preparation. I love cooking with my family, It's a great way to teach children to cook and to spend quality family time. Parenting is all about spending time together and teaching children what you know about life. Discipline becomes not as urgent when you spent quality time with children, tweens and teens, even if they say "leave me alone."

The view of our kitchen yesterday afternoon. Chaos! Fun! Delicious!