Category Archives: Holidays

‘Tis the Season for Compassion
Holiday Hug

Expectations are always high at this time of year. It’s the season for joy, friendly people wishing each other cheer, generosity of spirit, and family gatherings. But just as often, it’s not for so many.

The stress and tension of buying gifts, satisfying expectant children, and anticipating family gatherings fraught with anxiety and judgement are also heightened at this time of year. Loneliness, grief, and loss feel heavier now than at any other time. Suicide statistics peak. And on top of all the usual stress, we are in our second holiday season marred by a world-wide pandemic with a new and possibly scarier variant at our doorstep. The unhappy and the sick feel more isolated, rejected, and angry at this time of year.

Now that I have fully depressed all of you, I do not mean to be a downer. What I want is to prod your compassion and empathy to understand that this season is just as hard for many as it can be joyful for others.

Can you allow a family member’s, even your child’s, sadness, depression, anger, without allowing it to spoiling your own happiness? Can you be the support that a loved one needs without worrying you must do something about it, feeling guilty and then backing away because you don’t know what to do? Are you free to feel how you want without fearing the judgment of others?

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Simple Ways to Get Your Child in the Mindset of Gift Giving
gift giving

Q. I have four children ranging from 7 to 14. I have struggled with teaching generosity to each. Do you have any advice for developing a gift-giving guideline?

A. Developing a generous spirit in children is a process that can’t exactly be taught, but experienced. So much of becoming generous, appreciative, and respectful is how it is modeled and what is important to you. Are you generous (that doesn’t mean buying presents), grateful, appreciative, and respectful of your children and of others? If not, this is where to start. We think we can just tell our children to be grateful and to think more of others. We even try to demand it with yelling and disrespectful threats. It doesn’t work that way.

Children naturally love to give things to others and watch faces light up. It is quite empowering when children take an active role in giving. But don’t mistakenly expect that young children will naturally want to be generous with and considerate of others. That expectation will lead to anger and reprimands when you see natural egocentricity, and it seems that all they care about is what they get. That is generally how it is and when they are reprimanded for being egocentric, they tend to grab what they can get more than normal.

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Finding the “I” in Motherhood
cropped view of child holding tray with breakfast, mothers day card with heart sign and mom lettering, while mother stretching in bed

Our second Covid Mother’s Day is upon us. How will you spend it? Will your children bring you breakfast in bed and give you loving cards? Or will you be on duty once again, feeling resentful of the mothers who get breakfast in bed?

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Less is More in the New Year

The key to becoming a better and happier parent is NOT to add on more to-dos. Especially expectations of yourself and your kids none of you can be successful meeting. You’ll all feel worse. You may want to do things better, but I promise that most likely means doing less—worrying less, fearing less, nagging and shouting less.

We are doing so much more “parenting” than in past generations, and then giving ourselves grief about all we’re not doing. Think about all that stuff in your head telling you what is going wrong, why your child is a rotten monster, and why you are a terrible parent. That’s the stuff I’m talking about. This is what exhausts you and what you would do better leaving behind. Easier said than done, I know.

Here are some of the things my Facebook followers want to drop:

~ feeling less anxious

~ hovering

~ always being in control

~ worrying about what I’m doing wrong

~ impatience

~ trying to get him to be the person I want him to be

~ yelling, dictating, interfering, and catastrophizing

~ so much screentime for all of us

And add:

~ more adventures

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Nov ’19 Q&A – Managing Family Disapproval at Holiday Time

Q. I have worked hard to raise my boys, 5 and 8, very differently from how I was raised. I have followed your principles of Connective Parenting and want to stick with them. One of my boys is very strong-willed and, as you say, “won’t take no for an answer”. The other is a gem, so easy to get along with. With holiday gatherings coming up with old-school parents and in-laws, do you have advice on how to handle unwanted, critical remarks that leave my 5 yr. old feeling angry and reactive whenever they are around—not to mention what a failure I feel like.

A. When you choose to parent differently from the methods of your parents, you are always at risk for being criticized. Your parents and in-laws likely feel threatened by how you are raising your boys and assume you disapprove of how you were raised (this may be very true). If you are not asking their advice and following their traditions, you are clearly going your own way, and they may feel discarded and even wronged. The hard part for you is to stay neutral and not take their criticism personally—it is all about the one giving the criticism. You do not have to buy into it.

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New Year’s Resolutions: 10 Exhausting Things to Give Up

Fun parenting

If you’re making New Year’s resolutions this year, remember less is more. The key to becoming a better and happier parent in the new year is NOT to add on any expectations of yourself that you can’t be successful meeting. You’ll just feel worse. That does no one any good.

Some parents need to spend more time with their kids and actually do more at home so their kids can have a childhood instead of being expected to run the household. My guess is that most parents reading this blog would do better to subtract from what they are presently doing, let go of some of their assumed obligations, know what they are responsible for and drop the rest, and let their children fight or play more on their own with less parental supervision.

Here are some of the things my Facebook followers would like to drop:

~ feeling less anxious

~ hovering

~ always being in control

~ worrying about what I’m doing wrong

~ impatience

~ trying to get him to be the person I want him to be

~ yelling, dictating, interfering, and catastrophizing

~ so much screentime for all of us

And add:

~ more adventures

~ letting her choose and lead more

~ patience

~ more time thinking about what I’m doing right

~ more empathy

~ being in the moment more

~ slowing down and wrapping my heart in joy

~ being present

~ more outdoors

For those of you who could drop some of your load, here are some important things that need dropping:

  • Coming up with the answers. Always having the answer is exhausting and defeating. In most situations, not only do you not have to have the answer, you shouldn’t. When you have all the answers, you pressure your children, undermine their ability to problem solve, create a dependency on you as the fixer or decider. Instead, ask questions like, “What can you do about that?” “How can you make that happen?” “How can you two work this out?” Or simply leave it alone for a bit.
  • Taking responsibility for your child’s feelings. Cheering up or denying your children’s feelings robs them of experiencing difficult feelings in a supportive atmosphere. If you feel responsible to stop negative emotions – an impossible and exhausting task — you will get angry at their upsets and tell them not to cry because you don’t know what to do with big feelings. Just let them come.
  • Teaching 24/7. Teach less, be more. Listen, watch, observe, follow your child’s lead. Your child is way more capable than you give her credit for. In many areas, she actually does know what is best for herself.
  • Assuming you are the only one. Get babysitters, go out with your spouse or friends, take yoga classes, have plenty of adult time so you will be a fuller, happier parent. Children learn from many, and no one person can fulfill all their needs—ever. Find babysitters you trust and your children like. They will look forward to you going out.
  • Jumping in. When your child falls, wait to see how he is before scooping him up with worry. Hold back when your kids are fighting to give them the chance to work it out their way. After unacceptable behavior, stop what needs to be stopped, but wait for calm to talk about what went wrong or needs amending. In the meantime, breathe and think.
  • Controlling. Let go, choose your battles, lighten up, allow a bit of naughtiness, and trust your children’s developmental process. Don’t expect your child to be at her best all the time. Give her a break. Remember how old she is. The greatest lesson in life is to understand that we cannot control another person, only ourselves.
  • Nagging. You don’t like it, your kids don’t like it, so why not stop doing it? Because it means trusting more. Much harder. See how many situations that usually provoke your nagging could afford letting go. Ask yourself, So what? Can I let this one go? What harm will be done in the long run? You may decide it requires intervention, but the asking calms you down.
  • Expecting appreciation. It’s not your children’s job to be grateful for all you do. They haven’t had another family they can compare their own with—certainly not the one you came from. They should actually be able to take you for granted—when they’re young. Everything you do for your children is your choice. You provide opportunities because you want your children to have them.
  • Doing everything. Your children are not going to remember you for how clean and organized you are. If they do, you’ve neglected a lot—mainly your relationships with them. Cut down on your daily to-do lists and replace those minutes with just being with your kids, being silly or putting your feet up.
  • Needing to be the perfect parent. Good enough is good enough. No one wants to live with a perfect parent. If you set expectations too high for yourself you will keep failing. Lower your expectations, stop comparing yourself to others, and accept who you are, what you are capable of and what you’re not. Allow yourself to have fun.
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    Childhood Beliefs: The Keepers of the Secrets

    Children's beliefs

    When long-held childhood beliefs are dashed, parents need to pick up the pieces and initiate children into the keepers of the secrets.

    “Mom, you’re the tooth fairy, aren’t you?” accused my nine year old daughter out of the blue one morning holding the evidence in her fingers. Molly had conducted a private test after finding an old tooth (who knows where). She put her tooth in the appointed spot. But this time the tooth fairy had not taken it, nor left money in it’s place.

    Busted. “Yeah, it’s true,” I said smiling to myself. This was not hard. She was clearly old enough to know that there was no fairy who flew in her window to leave her money for a tooth. She was disappointed but her disappointment was tempered by her pride in her detective skills.

    Molly followed me into the bedroom while I was making my bed. From the opposite side of the bed, she said, “Mom, if I ask you a question will you tell me the truth?” Here it comes, I thought. Amazing. This was exactly the same setup (across a bed my mother was making) and the same wording I used to ask my mother way back when.

    “Yes, I will,” I said thinking again that she was definitely old enough.

    When Molly was seven, having heard something at school no doubt, she asked the same of her father. “Papa, if I ask you a question, will you tell me the truth?” His answer was, “Yes.” “Is there a Santa Claus?”

    My husband hates (to put it mildly) the Santa lie. So he had no qualms about answering, “No.”

    “Really?” Molly exclaimed in disbelief.

    Bless his heart, he answered, “Well, what do you think, Moll?”

    “Oh, I think there is,” she confidently replied. “Well, you’re probably right,” he said, disappointed that he had to live the lie even longer. But he got it that she still needed to believe a little longer (and that I would kill him if he destroyed her belief).

    So here was Molly at nine—having held onto her belief two years more. I thought she was ready.

    “Actually, no…” was as far as I got before she threw herself onto the bed, tears gushing as if our dog had died. She yelled at me, “You’ve lied to me all these years!” I looked down at this forsaken child, took a breath and said, “Molly, do you wish you had never believed in Santa Claus?”

    She let up on her sobbing momentarily and said quietly, “No.”

    Ah, vindicated, I thought. She’ll come around quickly. Then with renewed outrage, she threw herself further across the bed and cried out, “And I suppose you’re going to tell me there’s no Easter Bunny either!”

    There it was—all three icons of childhood imagination dethroned in about five minutes. My heart filled with compassion and broke wide open. Molly had crossed a very special threshold to join a new group of peers—the keepers of the secrets.

    The capacity to believe in something you can’t see or touch—from a gut feeling, to a higher power, to one’s inner self, to the invisible bonds of family, to hope for the future—is necessary to survive and thrive in our often chaotic world.

    A child’s eager belief in something as illogical as Santa, monsters, imaginary friends, super heroes, the aliveness of stuffed animals and dolls, the tooth fairy, or a giant rabbit bearing eggs signifies a developmental need to believe in something beyond the human spectrum. Fairy tales have survived for centuries because they validate a child’s fears and imagination. May we learn from the purity and loyalty of a child’s beliefs and never belittle them.

    We must hold carefully and tenderly our children’s beliefs, even if they are inconvenient or fly in the face of logic. We must perpetuate the child’s capacity for make-believe in order for their growing imaginations to take them far.

    Children believe in Santas and tooth fairies as long as they need—often beyond a sibling, friend or even parent telling them otherwise. Allow them to grieve the great and deep loss that it may be. Never belittle their imaginations. Allow their capacity for belief to transcend to greater unknowns that are with us for life. Celebrate the maturity that carries them across that great divide from make-believe into the world of logic. Readiness varies enormously. When it comes, be there with compassion and understanding so they too will become keepers of the secrets for their children.

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