Keep those lines of communication with your kids open- even when it's tough!
Lisa here. I hope you and your family have been enjoying this holiday season. As 2022 is winding down, many of us are reflecting on our year. We’re thinking about what went well, what we wish had gone differently, and what we want for the new year. In that spirit, you can do the same kind of self-reflection about how you lived your parenting values throughout 2022.
If you’re not sure what your parenting values are, sign up for our newsletter to get our freebie, Jumpstart Your Parenting. If you’ve been with us for a while, you’ve thought about your values and have been practicing them in your day-to-day life with your kids. You’ve likely had some successes and some areas where you want to do things differently. To help you think through some of how you put your values in action, start by thinking about what has been important to you this year. Then ask yourself the following questions:
Take a look at your responses to the above questions. What do you notice about how you prioritized things as a parent? Do you feel like you lived your values the way you wanted to?
Now, for the million-dollar question: Based on what’s truly important to you (your values), what do you want to focus on for 2023? Do you want to keep your priorities the same, or do you want to do some intentional reprioritizing? If you want to do some things differently for 2023, here are some questions to ask yourself to give you some guidance:
If you’ve taken some time to think about the answers to these questions, you now have a gameplan for living your values in the new year. We’ll also be here to support you with the values-based content we have in store for 2023, so stay tuned. We appreciate you coming back to see what we have to say each week and we’re excited to be able to continue to serve you!
Sarah here. We hope you read last week’s blog and that you and your family are getting into the spirit of giving- whatever that looks like for you. This week, we’re focusing on a natural counterpart of giving: gratitude.
Oxford Languages defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful” as well as “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Gratitude isn’t just about an emotion- it’s more of a cognitive-affective state. We think or perceive something positive, we connect that benefit to the source, and we feel a positive emotion. There is a body of research in the field of positive psychology that supports the physiological, social, and emotional benefits of gratitude.
While research uses the term “gratitude,” Lisa and I both agree that the terminology doesn’t work for everybody. It isn’t that people don’t feel grateful. It’s just that talking about gratitude or doing a gratitude journal may feel daunting to some. That’s okay. But, since the concept of gratitude is so valuable, rather than just dismissing the whole thing, consider what language does work for you and your family. I personally find that “appreciation” resonates more for me than gratitude. Others may feel more comfortable with thinking in terms of being “thankful.”
When it comes to practicing gratitude, here again, I want you to think outside of the box. There’s probably the way you want yourself or your family to express gratitude. This may include hand-written personalized thank you cards or—if you’re thinking about self-reflection—it may mean structured daily gratitude journaling. Those ideas are fine- great, in fact. I love getting real mail- hand-written notes are the best! And empirically, we know (thanks to Martin Seligman, Ph.D. and his years of research in positive psychology) that structured gratitude journaling has immense benefits.
But in real life, sometimes these practices just aren’t feasible. It may be that you’re short on time, long on stress, or you’re trying to encourage gratitude in your kids, who may be less committed to the goal than you are. Rather than throwing out the whole idea of practicing gratitude, you could expand your scope of gratitude practices to include some new ideas. If you’re struggling to get your kids to sit down and write thank you cards, maybe you guys could make short audio messages, videos or write texts to friends and family instead. If you want to do gratitude journaling but haven’t found the time, bring the activity into dinnertime, so everyone can share something they’re grateful for. Rather than just focusing on presents, get your family to focus on actions, small gestures and things that were said (or even left unsaid). Gratitude isn’t about adding stress or creating tension for you and your family. It’s about recognizing the people, actions, events, and things that you genuinely appreciate. And remember that gratitude—like giving—is something we can practice all year long.
Sarah here. We hope you read last week’s blog and are using the tips that Lisa provided to de-stress your holidays! For many families, a natural part of enjoying time together at the holidays is the giving and receiving of gifts. Presents are great! But it’s also possible that giving gifts—especially for kids—goes overboard, involves spending far more money than intended, creates unnecessary stress, and can contribute to kids becoming gluttonous little goblins. While kids love receiving…gifts, attention, money…you name it…it’s also important for kids to learn to love giving. Helping your kids focus on giving—gifts, time, money, acts of service— throughout the year, not just at the holidays, can help prevent them from becoming self-centered, materialistic, and entitled.
Not sure how to encourage a sense of giving and generosity in your kids? We’ve got you covered with some parent-tested, kid-approved ideas. Some strategies can be implemented now (in the winter holiday season), and others can be implemented year-round.
Because your kids will likely be receiving gifts this holiday season, you’ll need to make room for their new things. Rather than playroom organization being your job or being a fight, why not frame this as a way to give to others? My daughter has a tough time giving things away- she is incredibly sentimental about items, and she doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings (i.e., the people who gave her the toys or books she’s getting rid of). This year, we talked about going through her toys and deciding what she was ready to share with other kids. Rather than focusing on her losing things, we focused on the other kids gaining things that they’d love as much as she had. It worked like a charm. We worked incredibly hard for 2 days and over time, giving got easier. She got excited about the idea of other kids getting to enjoy things that she had once loved AND she felt really good about herself. As a bonus, we cleaned her playroom AND bedroom without one argument.
If you don’t already have an “Elf on the Shelf” tradition in your household, why not try something different? Rather than the elves monitoring your kids’ behavior for Santa, you could start a “Kindness Elf” tradition. A neighbor (thank you, Carol, for being a rock star, as always!) shared this amazing idea with me. Santa sent 2 special “Kindness Elves” to their house. Rather than playing pranks, or being Santa’s watchers, the Kindness Elves appear and leave ideas for ways to give to others and choose kindness (e.g., baking for someone, donating gently used toys or clothes, helping a friend clean up, etc.). In turn, the kids can also leave notes for the elves to take to Santa that describe ways they have chosen kindness, generosity, and gratitude (at the holidays or anytime in the year).
In discussing the “Kindness Elf” idea, Lisa and I thought that it could be taken in a slightly different direction. Regardless of your family’s religious/spiritual/cultural practices, we really like the idea of having a physical object that could remain visible in the house year-round and could serve as a symbol of and reminder for kindness, giving and generosity. Whether that symbol is an Elf, a stuffed animal or figurine, a photograph, a painting, a collage, or something else entirely, consider having a visible cue to encourage giving.
I genuinely love giving gifts. I especially love making things. It makes me feel good to know that I created something unique just for a particular person. That form of giving comes naturally to me. What comes naturally to you and your kids? Do you prefer giving a physical item or do you prefer a giving act? This week, think about ways you already enjoy giving- it could be creative gestures, time spent, acts of service, words of affirmation, charitable giving, or something else. If you don’t have a good read on what comes naturally to your kids in terms of gift-giving, ask. If they don’t know, try out different kinds of giving and see what works for them. Start where you already are- use your (and your kids’) natural strengths and talents to support giving. Giving will help you and your kids focus on others—outside of your immediate family—and helping other people just feels good!
Feel free to peruse our blog and see what Sarah and Lisa had to say about topics related to your needs as a busy parent. We will talk about everything from parenting values, to life hacks, to realistic self-care.