Take Back the Holidays
It’s that special time of year: chestnuts roasting on an open fire, festive lights, family and friends ... plus shop-’til-you drop stress, billions in credit-card debt and 4 million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bags sent to the dump.
Ugh. How did the holiday season go from being a time of celebration and renewal to frenzied commercialism and consumption? Between Black Friday – once simply known as the day after Thanksgiving – and Christmas, weekly updates of retail sales figures are reported as breathlessly as football scores and analyzed as the most important indicators of the health of the U.S. economy.
Eight in 10 Americans report that the holidays are a time of increased stress. That’s the bad news. The good news is more than 3 in 4 Americans wish that holidays were less materialistic. Nearly 9 in 10 believe that holidays should be more about family and caring for others, not giving and receiving gifts.
The even better news is that this is one change we can make on our own. We don’t have to write a letter, sign a petition or join a movement to Take Back the Holidays™. Nor do we have to search for the perfect gift . We can opt out of the madness and look for more meaningful ways to celebrate the season.
“Christmas should be something to enjoy rather than endure,” writes author, Bill McKibben. “Instead of an island of bustle, it should be an island of peace amid a busy life. We want so much more out of Christmas: more music, more companionship, more contemplation, more time outdoors, more love.” In Hundred Dollar Holiday, McKibben describes what it’s like to set a $100 limit on holiday spending – gifts, decorations, even the holiday feast. Some of us might find that level of simplicity a challenge, at least to start, but surveys say that those are the things people want most.
Time – especially time with friends – is one of the most valuable gifts we can give. We have more and cooler stuff than our parents and grandparents could have ever imagined, but we pay dearly. We spend more time working and shopping than they did and we spend much less time in leisure, on vacation and with friends. Giving time together reduces the amount of stress-inducing, useless stuff in everyone’s life, builds community and creates a catalog of memories to look back on. Give your kids a day at the beach for all their friends. Exchange lunch-dates with a friend, babysit your best friends’ kids – maybe even overnight! Share a talent: give lessons, tax prep or bike repair.
Consider opting out of the gift giving frenzy. On Thanksgiving, put all family members’ names in a bowl and everyone pull one. Then each person buys just one gift. No waiting in lengthy lines. No buying stuff that isn’t quite right to avoid showing up empty handed. This allows everyone to give and still receive, but without the stress, clutter or post-holiday credit card bills.
And one final thought: cultivating new traditions takes time. How we choose to take back the holidays is up to us– that’s what it’s all about, creating and nurturing our own traditions. As with any gift, it’s the thought that counts. So this year, think hard about what really matters to you and your family and put that at the top of your holiday gift list.
Excerpts of this article originally written by Annie Leonard, 2012
November 2012 Newsletter
Making Smart Ones…
Pencil or pen? Jacket or sweater? Sundae or cone? Children make lots of simple decisions each day. As they get older, these decisions will get a lot harder. How can you make sure your youngster will choose wisely? By teaching decision-making skills while he's young. Here are three suggestions.
Following your lead
As you're making decisions, think out loud so your child can hear you, Example: When deciding if your family should see a movie, talk about whether it's appropriate for everyone to watch or how much it will cost. Once you make the decision, try to follow through with it.
Weighing pros and cons
Looking at both sides often leads to better decisions. Suggest that your child write a problem on a piece of paper. (Should I spend all my money on a video game?) Draw a line down the middle and label the columns "pros" and "cons." Have him fill in the good points (I like the game. It's my money) and bad points (I won't have any money left. I may get tired of play it).
Living with it
If your youngster makes a poor decision, let him experience the result. Chances are, next time he'll make a better choice. Example: Benjamin decides to buy the video game. Result: When he's invited to a movie with a friend, he doesn't have money for the ticket. He has to wait until next time.
Taken from Home and School Connection
October 2012 Newsletter
Try four easy ways to teach kids how to behave © 2002 By Dr. Charles Fay
In all parts of their lives, children with great manners have a powerful advantage over those who do not. They make friends easier, get along better with their teachers, and eventually make much better employees and spouses. Here are four techniques that will give your child this life-long gift:
Tip No. 1: Make a list
Sit down with your kids and make a list of the specific behaviors polite people display. Have fun with this activity. Your written list might look something like:
• Say “please” and “thank you” • Eat with their mouths closed • Burp in the privacy of their own rooms • Say “excuse me” • Hold doors open for people
Tip No. 2: Model these manners
Children learn much more from our actions than from our words.
Tip No. 3: Provide kids what they want only when they use manners
When parents use Love and Logic, they don’t waste their breath lecturing about good manners. Instead, they very politely refuse to provide what their kids want unless they hear a sweet “please” or “thank you” and see the other behaviors on their “manner list.”
For this to work, parents must respond to requests with polite sadness instead of anger or sarcasm. For example, a parent might say in a sad tone of voice, “This is such a bummer. We can’t go to the movies today because you need more practice with manners first.”
A parent who sets this limit, avoids anger or sarcasm, and holds firm by staying home will see a very upset child in the short-term and a much happier, more responsible one in the long-term.
Tip No. 4: Expect them to repay you for any embarrassment they cause
If your child continues to be rude, he or she may need to repay you for the embarrassment or inconvenience created. With genuine empathy and sadness, a parent might say, “How sad! Your rudeness at Aunt Mary’s house really drained the energy out of me. I’ve been too tired to clean the bathrooms. When you get them done, I’m sure I’ll feel a whole
September 2012 Newsletter
Let ‘Em Struggle
Dr. Sylvia Rimm, child psychologist and director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland,
Ohio says, “Each time we steal a student’s struggle, we steal the opportunity for them to build self-
confidence. They must do hard things to feel good about themselves.”
Jumping in to solve problems for kids who need to be thinking about and generating their own
solutions can take away their opportunity to learn what abilities and potential they have. When we
solve a problem for a child, we take ownership of that child’s problem. A child should always do
more thinking about their problem than we do. Offering assistance too early risks sending the child
subtle messages which can erode his confidence in his own abilities:
You are not capable of solving this problem on your own.
I don’t have confidence in you.
You are not responsible.
You cannot succeed without my help.
We all know that practice makes perfect...or practice at least gives kids lots of experience! When
we solve a child’s problems prematurely, we eliminate his opportunities to solve problems.
Without these opportunities, it takes longer for children to acquire this skill. Children can become
increasingly hesitant in their abilities to solve problems when we don’t allow them to struggle.
Strengthen your child’s problem-solving skills by following these steps:
1) Ask your child to explain their struggle/problem. Don’t interrupt!
2) Reflect back/Repeat what you heard the child say. (This communicates understanding and
3) Ask, ”What have you tried?...How did that work?...Do you have any other ideas?”
4) If they can’t think of additional options, say “Would you like some other ideas?...Other kids in
your situation have _____. Would any of those work for you?”
5) Model how to handle frustrating feelings by using overt, but under-your-breath self-
encouragement for your child(ren) to “overhear”. For example, when the DVD player is not
communicating with the television, say something like, “I’m so frustrated that I can’t get this to
work! I’m going to keep trying until I figure it out, though. I know I can do this!”
May 2012 Newsletter Submission – April 16, 2012
- Let kids help in finding solutions. Give your child the opportunity to contribute when making summer plans. Model problem solving skills and allow them to participate. Everyone contribute ideas and make a list citing the pros and cons of each idea. Children have an easier time adapting to a busy or complicated schedule when they have helped in the decision making process.
- Make sure young children have fun and interesting people to spend time with such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, or the parent of a friend. Try to have a good mix of adult supervision and peer interaction; a camp counselor or summer teacher also provide this opportunity.
- Another way to lessen your stress and to create great times for your child is to look for local recreation programs. Some resources are local park and recreation centers, camps, local colleges and universities, churches, YMCA or Boys and Girls Clubs, as well as private daycare that includes field trips and fun activities for kids.
- Check out books and tapes from your local library or plan a trip to a bookstore. Provide arts and craft supplies for those long rainy days when kids are stuck indoors. Help older children find summer jobs or volunteer opportunities to spend their time helping others.
- Try to set aside one on one time with each child doing something when they can have your complete attention. Leave your cell phone at home and try taking a walk, a bike ride, or even a drive in the car. There is something about being side by side instead of face to face that enhances communication with teens and tweens.
- Have your child keep a journal or scrapbook of their activities during the summer. This can be as simple as writing three things about their day that they are grateful for or really enjoyed. Time goes by too quickly and this would be a great way to look back and enjoy your summer again and again.
- Provide your child with something fun to look forward to. Having a special event planned, gives kids the focus they need to get them through necessary chores and times when parents are not around because of other responsibilities.
- Sometimes the options for spending summer days are limited and your child will not be thrilled with the outcome. If this is the case, allow him/her to voice their opinion and frustrations and listen to their feelings. Everyone adjusts to disappointment best when they know that they are heard and that what they have to say is important to the ones they love the best.
- If your child spends time alone, know that age is relative. Some children can be very mature at 10 and others may need supervision well into their teens. Be sure to consider whether children left with siblings are more likely to take chances or if the behavior between the kids could become combative. Be sure that your child feels safe and is given written instructions on topics from emergency phone numbers to what snacks they can have.
- Finally, take some time for yourself. I always use the example of the airline attendant and how they give their safety presentation before each flight. I compare how they instruct adults traveling with children to apply their own air mask before assisting children. It is much the same principle in parenting. You are your child’s number one resource in the world but if you do not take time for yourself, being an effective parent would be next to impossible. Your little ones still need a very good nights sleep, even during the summer and you need some quiet time.
April 2012 Newsletter
March 2012 Newsletter
January 2012 Newsletter Article
- Practice Reflective Listening: Show respect for the person by reflecting what they have said back to them--this lets them know for sure that you were listening. For example, say,
- "What I hear you saying is..." (then repeat what they just said as best you can)--do not interpret or put your "spin" on it! or, say,
- "If I'm getting this right, you're saying..." (again, repeat what they just said)
- "When I put myself in your shoes, I can see why you would feel that way" or,
- "When I look at this from your viewpoint, what you're saying makes sense to me."
- "That must really feel bad to you."
- "I can only begin to imagine how much that would (hurt you, bother you, make you mad, etc.)"
- "I think I can see where you're coming from" or,
- "I see what you mean" or the old stand-by,
- "I think I understand what you're saying."
Check out these addition resources!
"Understand and Care" by Cheri J. Meiners