December 6, 2013
Buckle up parents…the holidays are here! Some of us smile and dance; others sigh deeply and wonder how we will ever get it all done. The societal expectations of the season, fed by Martha Stewart specials and unending commercials displaying ‘perfect’ holiday scenarios can delude the strongest of minds. And I have good news! There is a way to unplug and reclaim your holiday for you and your family to truly enjoy, so read on!
As a mother, and a very young one when I started, I had ridiculously unrealistic expectations of myself. Growing up, my holidays had been very magical more often than not. I endeavored to create the same magic, warmth and wonderment for my family. It did not occur to me that I had been an only child being raised by my mother and her family, which included three other adults. My expectations of myself were totally unrealistic given there was only one of me and yet it took a few emotional meltdowns before I could see that.
The revelation came mid-crying jag alone in my bedroom. I had been trying to do everything I normally did (which was already a very full life) AND add all the holiday stuff…cards, decorating trees, shopping, baking, etc… Was I crazy?? Who did I think I was…superwoman?? From that moment on things began to change as I gave myself permission to pick and choose holiday endeavors. After all, what’s a wonderful Norman Rockwell ambiance if Mama is looking like a deer in headlights with red, swollen eyes? Not pretty.
If you are interested in making your holiday one that is truly full of peace and joy rather than stress and exhaustion, here are some of my ideas:
• Take time to consider what is most important to you. Shape holiday plans around your self and your family rather than ‘shoulds’ from your extended family, church, community, etc…
• If children are school age and older, include them in the decision making by asking them “What do you like most about the holidays?” “Is there anything about the holidays you don’t enjoy?” Consider their answers, they are full of wisdom, and let them know about plans once they are made.
• If you have younger children, consider putting your tree or other holiday decorations up later in the month to delay their excitement and unbearable anticipation. You can also delay putting presents under the tree. Their lack of concept of time can make a month seem like forever.
• If traveling, try to have your own space where you can wind down and take a break. Plan outside activities with only your child in mind that are not centered around others. This reestablishes your personal family ‘center’ which is very grounding.
• Be willing to use TV consciously to serve your interests. It can help children to unwind, at times, and is a quiet way to spend time together just ‘being’, snuggled up watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.
• My favorite decision was no cooking on the day we put up the tree. Ordering pizza freed me to enjoy every moment along with everyone else. Resentment rectified!
• I eliminated sending Christmas cards in favor of using that time to bake with my children, which took more time than doing it on my own. While I missed connecting with friends, I loved the slower pace with one less ‘to do’on my list. Some families I know send cards and connect with friends on other holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Valentine’s when there is less to do.
• Leave some space in the holiday schedule…don’t plan every minute. Leave room for spontaneous fun, such as an afternoon movie as a family.
My last and maybe most important suggestion is a post holiday debriefing that includes everyone in your home. Talking about the holiday, what everyone loved the most and least, what plans worked well and which didn’t, were new traditions created, and which do you never want to do again…etc.
This can be humorous and fun as you look back over the season and learn more about what truly makes you and your family happy. It’s best to do this before the New Year and write down what you discover. By the time the calendar turns round again, the joys and horrors of the previous year will strangely be forgotten.
Over the years I learned from my mistakes and created wonderful memories with my family. The changes I made were not all easy and the peace they gave my heart allowed me to be fully present with my family. That made it all worthwhile.
What changes will you make this season to retain your sanity?
What do you do different from others that makes a difference in your home?
There’s a million ways to roll through December and I would love to hear from you!
June 14, 2013
Thanks to my friend Liz for her suggestion for this week’s post:
“How to handle a 16 year old drama queen! My parents never figured that out with me. Now I know all too painfully why.”
Wow…I feel you girl! This is truly a moment for Courageous Parenting!
We bring these beautiful beings into the world, love them with all our hearts, and then there are moments where we wonder what has incarnated before our very eyes. My parenting perspective is that a large part of our job is to see, appreciate, and make room for our children to be exactly who they are. That being said, it is also our job to teach them how to live with consideration for others.
We teach them this delicate balance with our responses to them. Ideally, we hold respect for them and model respect for ourselves at the same time. Most important is that all this be done while conveying our love for them. Our response sets the stage for how they experience themselves and help to shape their actions and reactions.
My first piece of advice is do not elevate your response to match their drama; hold to your own center. You don’t need to say a word for your calm energy to convey to them that this is not as serious as they are experiencing it to be. Your standing in the truth helps anchor them. There are tricks to doing this if you find this challenging.
One of mine is to regard them as if I were watching a movie. My poker face is turned on, I am listening, being present, and waiting to see where this ‘plot’ is going. Not every situation requires immediate action. In fact, if it is not a true emergency (your assessment…not theirs) your response can take minutes, hours, or sometimes days. It’s okay. Wisdom takes time.
This can start when they are very young. As an example, when they fall or hurt themselves, control your reaction. Your calm disposition conveys faith in them.
“Oh sweetie, you fell down…are you okay?”
How many times have we seen children fall, break something, or make a mess only to immediately look to their parents for a reaction. They are looking to us to see what their response needs to be. Acknowledging their situation, calmly expressing empathy, and asking questions helps them to self assess and reassures them.
Even if your children are older, it is never too late to change how we respond to their reactions to their lives. Detachment is key. It is their life, their emotional body, not ours after all.
My advice for tantrums and tirades starts from the same place…detachment. You can make space for their feelings and not have to get involved energetically or emotionally. You can acknowledge they are having a tough time, ask if there is something you can offer to help, and then step away. Many times too much attention is fuel to the fire and reinforces the behavior.
My second piece of advice is to talk about what happens during these dramatic moments during a non-dramatic moment. This is an opportunity for you to share about your feelings and experiences, set boundaries for future dramatic moments, or help them to discover understanding about their behavior.
“So Susan/Bobby…you were really upset yesterday when you couldn’t go to the pool with your friends.”
“I felt frustrated seeing you so upset and unable to settle your self down. Is there anything I can do to help when you feel like that? ”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, let me know if you think of anything. Until then, I will probably walk away and give you space to have your feelings until you are ready to calm down. I love you and want to help. When I can’t, I will take some space for myself.”
In this way, you have set the stage to care for yourself and hold a healthy boundary. This is modeling self-respect and you have respected them by not asking them to change who they are. You can also ask them to go to their room in the future when they are feeling this way so they can emote and the family can continue with dinner, homework, etc… This too models respect for everyone.
Creating agreements during calm moments sets the stage for what will happen the next time this happens…and we know it will happen. When the drama ensues, you can acknowledge, empathize with calm words, then gently remind them of the agreements that were made.
“I see how upset you are. Do you remember our agreement for you to go to your room when you feel this way?”
The most important part of all is to do all the above with love in your heart. You can love them; you don’t have to fix them. Words spoken from the heart have remarkable results and are like balm on an open wound.
Check in next week for Part 2 of Save the Drama for Your Mama where I explore the personal and spiritual growth opportunities in challenging situations with our children.