Large family holiday gatherings can be tough for lots of reasons. Over-stimulated, over-sugared, over-excited and under-slept kids are simply going to struggle. But there may also be some relational dynamics that complicate things when you all get together. See if you relate to this pattern:
- You feel anxious around the watchful, possibly critical eye of parents or other relatives.
- You work harder to keep kids in line and are tougher on them than usual.
- Your kids (who are already extra stressed) sense your angst and act up more.
- Gramma or Grampa (or others) intervene to keep youngsters in line, with good intentions but unhelpful strategies.
- You feel embarrassed, undermined, and maybe frustrated or resentful.
- Kids watch the power struggle between the adults and are left feeling more stressed and insecure than ever.
Is the holiday stew smelling rotten yet? If so, this post is for you.
“So, kids, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?” you ask.
“My family, my house, my friends, my dog and Jesus.” (Same answers as last year….)
If you think your kids might be open to some deeper thinking this year, we’ve provided a handful of conversation starters about gratitude. We invite you try any or all of them and put a little bigger dose of gratitude in your Thanksgiving season:
- 1 Chronicles 16:34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
- What is something specific about God or a verse from the Bible that you are thankful for?
- Romans 1:20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities…
- What is your favorite part of God’s creation and what does it tell you about God?
- 1 Timothy 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
- Nearly 1/2 of the people in the world today live on less than $2.50 a day. $2.50 a day per person is barely enough for a one or two room house and simple food like rice and beans. Many of those people don’t have a home or enough to eat.
- We are blessed with many things. What food or object around the house is very special or meaningful for you that you are thankful for? Why is it special, or how does it bless you?
- James 1:7 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
- Is there something in our home that might seem like a “good gift” but could actually be harmful to us? (i.e. excessive luxuries, things that make us arrogant toward others, things we get really distracted by, etc.)
- Psalm 139:13,14 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful…
- What is something about the way your body works, or a physical ability you have, that you are thankful for? Has God used that ability to bless others?
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Encourage and build up one another…
- What is something about our family that you really love and are thankful for?
- Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.
- What have you experienced recently (or this year) that was challenging or difficult that really helped you to grow? How would you complete this sentence: I’m glad I went through ___________ because ____________________.
- Ephesians 2:10
- What is one way you bless others that you are thankful for? (i.e. I’m a good listener, I share toys well, I’m not afraid to talk to new people, etc). Parents can help kids identify these relational gifts with questions: “I noticed you _____________. What gift do you think you were using then? How were you blessed when you blessed that person? That’s something to be thankful for!!”
Teaching gratitude in a day when kids expect a fast, fun, and easy life can be a considerable challenge. So be intentional. Keep the conversation alive throughout the holiday season and beyond. Research shows your kids will be happier. And they’ll thank you for it!
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Did you find this blog because you Googled, “How do I get my baby to sleep through the night?” Well then, my friend, soak in this moment of knowing…this is NOT your magic bullet to deep nourishing sleep. At Connected Families, we don’t believe in quick fixes. We believe in lasting change. We believe in seeking the Holy Spirit, and the hard work that brings rich connection between parent and child.
If you have been following our work for a while, you are familiar with the Connected Families Framework. Over the last two years, while working behind the scenes I couldn’t help but memorize and internalize these four levels of parent/child connection. I assumed it would come in handy in my parenting journey, but I was not expecting to apply it so early!
If you are reading this, you probably want your kids to know how much you love them. And you probably tell them often that you do. But effectively communicating love is not always so simple. How can we be sure that what we mean as love is received as love? It can take insight, determination and creativity to communicate love messages in ways children can’t miss them.
John was fed up. Like many parents, he came to me looking for a quick fix. No matter what consequences or logic John put in place, his 6th grade son Ben just wouldn’t take responsibility for getting himself up and moving, and out the door on time for school.
He told me that everything he’d tried had failed.
Rather than talking about the behavior, I asked him, “Does Ben know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love him?”
Life is fast these days. The hectic pace can be stressful, and sometimes parents and children alike can get impatient and maybe even snippy. This sure was true for us.
As parents of young kids, we often felt burdened by the logistics of making life work and solving all the problems that arose. We struggled to notice what went well, or connect joyfully with our kids. We were often discouraged, in spite of our good intentions to bring encouragement and joy into our home. We wish we’d have seen back then this delightful 1 minute video of a young boy learning how to ride a bike:
When kids become teens, they start acting like they don’t need us. If we don’t understand why they’re doing this, and figure out ways to respond gracefully, we risk building resentment in the relationship.
It helps to understand that teens who push us away may be merely expressing a normal developmental stage in the best way they know how. After all, it’s their job to become their own person, and become more responsible for their lives. When parents find ways to keep love alive, even during this sometimes tense stage of life, they have their best shot at helping their kids launch confidently in just a few years.
Check out this video (made in partnership with Family Life Canada) to learn more.
Two-year-old Sam asked for milk while waiting for breakfast. His mom, Rebekah, was happy to oblige and poured him a small cup. Sam was at a curious, exploratory stage of life. He didn’t want the milk so much for drinking, but for a little science experiment about liquids and gravity. So he poured it all out. Onto himself.
Are you feeling a little fear and trepidation about your kids’ free time this summer and the issues it brings?Summertime means long stretches of downtime. It also means that computer, television, and smartphone screens are an appealing way to fill that time for most children. Maybe you are a little worried about the seemingly inevitable clashes over technology and screen use. It can be hard to know how to pull little (and big) eyes away from the draw of the flickering screen and how to create some memories that will last and be more meaningful than anything an online experience can offer. Managing screen time is a challenge for many families.
Brenda is a mom of three who follows our teaching closely. She shared this great story about how she dealt with technology obsession with the kids in her home.
Two summers ago we had such conflicts over screen time in our home it drove me crazy. My kids were determined to get their hands on some manner of glowing device – no matter what. I was equally determined they not rot their young brains with it, and the battle was on. So last summer I tried something bold. I told the kids there were no specific technology time limits for the summer. (Could that really work?!) You may even have a knot in your stomach reading about such a reckless plan. But it did indeed work incredibly well, and it’s our plan again this summer!
What were the secrets that made for such an amazing turn-around in this family’s screen time power-struggles using such a counter-intuitive approach? They are listed here in order of increasing importance: