Monday, November 30, 2015

5 Guiding Thoughts for the Holiday Season

As a continuation of my previous post, I want to offer some more thoughts for the season.

Many religious traditions point to the specialness of this time of year. What the many traditions speak of at this time of year are light and love. Because of the shorter days and often cooler weather, there is a tendency toward inwardness. This can manifest as quiet reflection, contemplation and meditation, and can thereby be a time of a birth of the true self, that core part of our psyche that we want to guide us to awake responsiveness.

We adults must make the time for this crucial self development activity!

So here are my five guiding thoughts.

1. This is a time of year to remember our human connectedness, human community, and the warmth and love of human relationships. 

Phone or write cards (actual paper in envelopes with stamps) to reconnect with family and friends who you may have neglected reaching out to over the year or years. Sit down and eat meals together without electronic distractions. Experience the warmth of human gatherings.

2. Remember your deep and true human values of giving, compassion, caring, generosity, sharing, warmth, and love.

Out of your care and compassion, what support and help can you offer others who may be in need? A hug for a friend or a meal for a homeless person?

3. How can you help your child toward these through your example?

Rather than a mood of getting, frantic shopping, stress, and the over stimulation of malls, movies, and consumerism, create quiet times reading stories, singing and making things together and simply being together.

4. How about making time for cooking together.?

Surround your child with warmth of the modern hearth, the smells of cooking, the warmth of your activity, the giving of cooking for others, cooking as a gift? Maybe make some sandwiches that you can bring downtown and give away to folks who have less to eat that you.

5. Create an environment of less stimulation for your young child!

The world of stores is so bright and loud and intentionally overstimulating. Find ways to leave your young child at home if you must enter the rushing shopping world. Grandma or Grandpa would be so happy to have time with your children, or maybe you can trade off with other parents.

Do you know that the light source with the closest spectrum of light as sunlight is candle light? Have less bright lights (including colorful screens) and less loud music for your young children. Read and sing by candlelight. It can be such an enriching experience for you and your children.

Reminder: My books are still on sale for 15% off through December.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What your child really needs this holiday season (and book sale through Dec. 31)

I write this at the beginning of November. Halloween has passed, and I am guessing many people are gearing up for a coming holiday season. Many family traditions involve celebrations and holidays in the winter months. Thanksgiving comes at the end of November. This year Diwali is November 11. In 2015, Hanukkah starts the evening of December 6, the same day many families celebrate St. Nicholas. Yule is celebrated on the Solstice, December 21. Many families celebrate Christmas December 25, and the four weeks of Advent that lead up to it. Kwanzaa starts December 26.

One thing these Festivals have in common is a they celebrate the light in a time of year when the days are shorter. These celebrations generate gatherings of families and friends, sharing food together and often there are gifts exchanged.

What does your young child need this holiday season?

Let’s start out with what your child does not need.
She doesn’t need the new Hello Barbie.
He doesn’t need a new Touch and Swipe Baby Phone.
She doesn’t need the latest Game Boy or Disney Princess Doll.
He can do without a Drone Camera (even if you really want it).

It is not toys and gifts that your child needs. Your child most need you to truly connect with her. It isn’t stuff that is the real need - it is the fabric of a connected life. Connected to family and family traditions, to nature and the seasons, and connected to herself. The example of connecting the adults offer is the style of connecting imitated by the child. It is up to you to show the path to connecting in the holiday season.

It is you that your child most needs. You, the parent available, present and connecting. You are your child’s guide in this life on earth, and you are her example of how to live. To me, holidays are an opportunity to develop and nurture traditions of connecting with each other. And I’d like to share some specific suggestions.

What are the foods that are important to you as part of your family holiday? Do you have the same foods every year on that holiday? That is something that makes memories and helps your child have direct experiences of the cycle of the year.

When I think of foods, I try to think how the child can engage in the preparation of those foods. Can he help cut up the vegetables? Can she pour in the ingredients for the sauces? Can you knead the dough together? Be a creative cook and create ways for your young child to help prepare the food. Food preparation is a social gesture of service. Encourage your child in this way. One tip though - plan for the extra time that these young helpers will add to your prep time.

Another aspect of food is that you can make food together for other people as gifts. Grandma would love some pumpkin bread you made for her. Uncle Steve would be thankful for a batch of chocolate chip cookies. And don’t forget the mail delivery person and your health care professionals. The gift of food is a gift of love!

There are many other types of simple gifts you can make together with your children, the internet is littered with them. You can help your child to create gifts for siblings and other relatives. It is a wonderful sea change when you can shift your family culture from gift-getting to gift-giving! And you have created this opportunity for spending time together engaged on behalf of another person. Incredible!

What about singing together? My fondest elementary school memory is the weeks leading up to Winter Break each year. The school would open a half hour early for those who wanted, and the halls were full of teachers and children singing together songs from various religions and traditions. You can create this on a smaller scale and sing at home, maybe after dinner each evening, or in the car. “Of course,” you say. “That’s a great idea but I can’t sing.” The secret is, your child is NOT a critic. She will be a joyous participant in song with you and you will even discover it is FUN.

How about arranging for some friends and families to get together and walk around a neighborhood knocking on doors and offering songs to the residents? Caroling is great fun and you can even meet your neighbors. The possibilities are infinite.

Maybe you can have a special family outing to a special performance. Perhaps there is an annual artistic or musical performance in your area that you can make part of your family annual tradition, and each year make sure to return as a family in your fancy outing clothes. In my area, El Teatro Campesino presents theartrical productions and every other year they offer a version of the story of ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’ they call “La Virgen del Tepeyac.” For my younger daughters, and now my granddaughter, it is our family tradition to head down to San Juan Bautista and enjoy the pageant (it’s really an amazing show) of the meeting of the traditional culture with the Spanish colonialists. 

If giving gifts is important to you, I suggest limit the amount. Wisely choose the one gift that is just right for the child, and that she will enjoy and treasure. Gifts made by you are extra special.  

A gift that is something for the child to do, or make, is a great way to go. How about a tool box or sewing kit and some supplies to go along with it. And then be sure to make something along with your child so she can learn by imitating you (because imitation is how the young child learns).

What about one special book as a gift? Maybe each year, for a birthday or a holiday gift, choose one book that you sense will mean something for your child. And then after he receives the book, read it to him again and again.

Oh...don’t forget to limit your own use of electronic devices so they are not an obstacle to connecting with your child. Have some electronic free time, and make the time to use your smart phone when your child is asleep, or otherwise engaged and you are elsewhere. Be smarter than your smart phone.

The best present for your child is your presence. True connecting with your young child takes some active will on your part to overcome the habits our consumer culture has created. It’s worth the effort.

And as a holiday offering, all my books are available at 15% off through December 31. Click here for details. 

Happy Holidays to you all, whatever holidays you enjoy!