PARENTING RESOLUTIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR
New Year’s resolutions in parenting may have an impact on the whole family life. Putting your effort into meaningful goals that will benefit your household can have a profound effect on family relationships, organization, and teamwork.
Here are a few resolutions you can implement:
1. Be there for your child. Choose to spend quality time with each child on one-on one every day. Listen to your child, respond, do not get distracted by your phone or your own agenda. Give her what she needs the most: your undivided attention. Spending just 10 to 15 minutes per day of uninterrupted time promotes emotional connection, reduces unwanted behaviors, and makes children more cooperative and responsive.
2. Improve routines. The New Year might be an opportunity to revisit morning, after school, and bedtime routines. One way to improve the routines is to use the method called “When – Then”. First, your child needs to do an often undesirable, but necessary activity before doing something she enjoys. For instance, tell her “When your bed is made, then it is time for your breakfast” or “When your homework is done and your backpack is ready for tomorrow, then you can go out and play with your friends.” The new routines can be posted in strategic places, so your child will remember them, and you will not have to remind them.
3. Get everyone engaged in chores. Each child should be required to do age-appropriate responsibilities around the house that contribute to the family’s daily life. Make a list of chores and decide together how to divide the weekly workload among all family members.
4. Start a weekly ritual that the whole family will enjoy. For instance, watch a family movie together once a week. You may want to share with your children the movies you loved when you were younger. Another option is to have a game night. Take turns to pick up the game you play. Outdoor activities can also be enjoyable: train for a 5K together or aim to complete a particular hike in your area.
A few changes can make the New Year brighter for everyone and positive effects may last a lifetime.
5 GOLDEN RULES TO MANAGE HOLIDAY STRESS
Managing our family during the holidays can rapidly become overwhelming. Oftentimes, for parents, this period of the year means an increase of pressure due to social obligations, the stress of gift buying, and an imperative necessity to be ready on the special days. Parents are often left with a tremendous emotional fatigue and very few emotional resources to manage their children.
Here are a few tips about how to get away from the cycle of stress:
1. Establish a schedule and stick to it. Thinking ahead of what needs to be done and when to do these tasks are a good way to avoid additional stress. From gifts to decoration, cooking to cleaning the house, holiday preparation is time consuming. So, in order to get everything done in time, break down the chores into easy-to-manage steps.
2. Get help in planning and preparing. When children are involved in the process, they feel like they are an integral part of the events taking place. So, giving them responsibilities and having them do some of the planning will contribute to make them feel engaged in the holiday preparations. Be clear about what you expect from them and make sure you understand each other about the assignments.
3. Keep your children busy. When children are on vacation and out of school, they have less structure in their daily life. So, planning activities in their schedule will help to manage their free time: plan outings for the week, arrange playdates, suggest a few activity ideas such as homemade ornaments, gingerbread house, holiday camping (preferably in the house), board games,…
4.Try to keep the routines as normal as possible. By definition, the holidays are particularly propitious to overstimulation. Children get tired from all activities and get thrown off balance due to the lack of normal routines. In addition, they probably eat more sweets and go to bed later. So, try to stick to their regular schedules and routines the best way you can so that the same rules apply.
5. No free pass for inappropriate behavior. Since tension and excitement are usually at their peak over the holidays, children do need more limits, not fewer. Be realistic and set your expectations about your children’ behavior before the holiday season starts. Thus, they know what the consequences will be if they do not respect the rules.
Since anxiety is very contagious in families, feelings of stress can rapidly spread like a wild fire when we feel we are losing control of the situation. So, planning ahead, involving our children, setting up realistic expectations, and trying to keep their routines, are keys to manage stress over the holiday season.
GETTING THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS STRESS-FREE WITH YOUR FAMILY
Holidays are supposed to be filled with joy, warmth, and generosity. However, too often, holidays mean stress and anxiety. You expect to have a nice, shared time with your family and maybe attend some larger family gatherings while your children may expect to receive every gift they demand, spend their school break playing video games and staying up late.
In order to avoid disillusions, here are a few tips about how to handle the holidays more peacefully:
1. Be realistic about your expectations. Your child is probably not going to spend most of her day helping you prepare the food and decorate the whole house. So, let go of expectations for how things will go or should be. If you start the season thinking you will enjoy the season if your child is compliant and behaves, then chances are you will not enjoy the holidays.
2. Let go of your own stress. Since children are very sensitive to adult stress and internalize feelings easily, make sure that you manage your own stress by acknowledging your feelings, reaching out, planning ahead, and learning to say no.
3. Assign specific tasks to your child. In order to avoid tension, power struggles, and potential conflicts, ask your child to do practical tasks. For instance, you can suggest “How about answering the door when the bell rings and take the guests’ coats as they arrive.”
4. Create your holidays. Since each of us is unique, so should be your holidays. You do not have to spend your holidays the way your family always did nor the way you think everyone else does. Instead, sit down with your family and brainstorm ideas about how to celebrate the holidays this year. Maybe, this year you will not travel and instead stay home to have dinner together.
5. Do not compare yourself or your family to others. Even if it is human nature to compare ourselves to others, try to avoid it as the result may trigger your anxiety. One consequence might be to try to force your children to behave a certain way so you can live up to the picture you have in your head. The essential aspect is to accept the family you have, not the one you might wish you had. Focus on the uniqueness of your family and enjoy it.
Having reasonable expectations for how the holidays will go, planning ahead together as a family, and making your holidays specific to your family will help avoid tensions and conflicts during this season.
WHEN YOUR KID WANTS MORE STUFF
With the holidays rapidly approaching, many parents are confronted again with their children’s endless requests for new gifts. We want to give our children what makes them happy; we don’t want them to feel left out or teased because their boots, phone, or brand name hoody are not the latest trend. At the same time, we want to raise children who are going to work hard to create what they want in the world. So, the question becomes “How do we raise children that feel deserving instead of feeling entitled?”
Here are a few tips to raise deserving kids:
1. Possessions should not replace emotional thirst. Too often, some parents buy things for their children because they feel guilty for not spending enough quality time with their children. When your child becomes demanding, it is then time to reassess your priorities. Ask yourself what you can do with your child to simply enjoy time with her. How can you modify your schedule so that you can spend time reconnecting with your child?
2. Empower your child to create her own abundance. If your child does want something that is not in your plan, then let her know and show some empathy by saying “No, we are not getting that today. I know it is hard on you and I am sorry about that.” If you child keeps insisting, then collaborate with her to find a solution. You may want to say “We can put this on your birthday list. If you want it sooner, you can earn money to buy it. How about doing an odd job that would allow you to buy what you want?” When you interact this way with your child, she feels empowered and learns that through hard work she can get what she wishes. The pursuit of a goal is a reward in itself.
3. Help your child wire her brain for a different type of reward. Show your child what emotional rewards are. For instance, a child who has a passion (e.g. basketball, cooking, writing, music) can practice, and it will build resilience. Then, her brain will be wired to find fulfillment in a different kind of reward that lasts. Material possessions are not satisfying in the long term, and often lead to crave more.
4. Live the values you wish to pass on to your child. What matters to you the most in life? The people you love? Volunteering to help others? Following your passions and contributing to the world? If your attitude in life is to give back and to be grateful for what you already have, your child will follow in your footsteps. Your child needs to hear explicitly and to see you demonstrate the most, what matters to you.
As a parent, if we focus on emotional fulfillment instead of instant material acquisition, then our children will learn the values of emotional connection and contribution to the world.
HOW TO GIVE APPROPRIATE CONSEQUENCES WHEN YOUR CHILD MISBEHAVES
Consequences should follow naturally a child’s careless action or poor decision. However, as a parent, you may wonder how set up consequences effectively and how long to give them.
Here are a few tips to establish them:
1. Create a menu of consequences. When you and your child are calm, take this opportunity to sit down and create together a menu of consequences and rewards for your child. Having your child participate in this process will help her accept the consequences when facing the misbehavior. Examples of consequences and rewards based on child ages: consequences for a 5-9 year old may include loss of video games, for a 10-14 year old, it might be loss of cell phone, and for a 15-17 year old, it could be losing access to the car. Rewards for a 5-9 year old may include getting a treat, for a 10-14 year old, it might be having a sleep over with a friend, and for a 15-17 year old, it could be gaining later curfew.
2. Consequences should be time-limited and task-oriented. If you tell your child who misbehaved “No playdates for 3 months.”, chances are it will not work and your child will get angry and develop resentment toward you. Instead, tell your child what privilege he loses, for how long time he loses it, and what specific behavior you expect from her to earn the privilege back. For instance, if your teenager was verbally abusive toward you, you may withhold her cellphone and say that you expect her to talk to you appropriately for two hours. Once she practices the desired behavior, she gets back her cellphone.
3. One consequence at a time. Often, in the heat of the argument, you may say “No video games for a week. Now, it is two weeks. Three! Nice going, you have lost them for a month now.” Stacking consequences is indeed counterproductive as it undermines your authority by mirroring your child’s emotional level. Instead, you should wait until everybody is calm before choosing and implementing one effective consequence.
4. Remember problem solving. Giving consequences is only one step. This will not teach your child the appropriate behavior. Problem solving with your child is the key if you want your child to act differently in the future. Please refer to my blog of October 2016 if you want to read more about problem solving.
Dealing with misbehavior works best when implementing appropriate consequences for the offense. Then, working collaboratively with your child will help her learn desired behaviors.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.