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5 Gifts To Give Your Child This Christmas

Youthful eyes are on us this holiday season.

They watch how we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

They pay attention to what we spend our money and time on.

They feel our stress or our peace during the month of December.

What our children learn to value at Christmastime, they learn from us as parents.

The holidays are the perfect time to teach our kids life lessons through how we choose to celebrate, give and receive.

Are you gifting your children lifelong lessons this holiday season?

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Here are 5 gifts you need to give your child this Christmas season

1. The Gift of Appreciation

Model for your child how to show appreciation to others throughout the holiday season.

What should you do when invited over to a home for a party or dinner? Let your kids see you contribute to the holiday meal by bringing a dish or a small gift for the host. Teach them not to show up at someone’s home empty-handed.

By all means, teach your child the importance of handwriting thank you notes for gifts they receive or kindness they’ve been shown. Teachers also cherish receiving written words of appreciation from their students.

5 reasons writing thank you notes should not be optional for your kids

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2. The Gift of Giving

Teach your child the importance of giving to others instead of focusing on just receiving.

Let siblings pick out gifts for each other and buy them with their own money. Growing up, my Mom had a ‘Mom store’ where my sister and I could buy things from a closet shelf where she had gathered inexpensive items for us to choose from. I carried on the same tradition until my kids were old enough to go out shopping on their own.

Let children be involved in the gift giving by using their own money and ideas. This way they begin to learn the value of selecting personal gifts that fit each person. Who doesn’t love a thoughtful gift giver?

3. The Gift of Compassion

Talk to your kids about how you are helping people with your time and money this season. Unfortunately, there are many people who are hurting during the holidays. What can your family do to show that you care?

We kept a Christmas Jar out all year long to collect change we found. I have a family in mind to gift it to but want to see if we are all in agreeance or is there someone else we should bless instead?

Carry dollars for kids to drop in Salvation Army buckets. Pull angels off of mall trees and buy gifts for kids in foster care. The ways you can help others through your giving is endless. Let your kids watch you continuously give to those who need your help if and when you’re able.

4. The Gift of Contribution

Christmas cheer shouldn’t just be made possible by mom, it should be a collective family effort contributing to traditions together.

Have your kids help bake the cookies. They can stamp and seal the envelopes of the Christmas cards. Pull out the ornaments and adorn the tree together.  Help pick out gifts for loved ones and wrap them as a family.

Get children of all ages involved in contributing to the magic of Christmas rather than just consuming.

5. The Gift of Humility

Teach your son or daughter that gifts aren’t for posting on social media. Google the Christmas Haul if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Kids sit around on Christmas morning showing off everything they unwrapped on Instagram and YouTube for everyone to see.

We must talk to our kids about the inappropriateness and unnecessary posting of material items received at Christmas. Better yet, how about us not gifting them anything worthy of bragging about in the first place. We don’t want our children finding their worth in owning the top of the line iPhone or expensive athletic shoes.

If we teach our children to appreciate, contribute and give to others this Christmas season then our gifts will live on way beyond December 25th.

Merry Christmas to your family! May you enjoy this precious season with your loved ones celebrating the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ!\

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6 Ways Parents Can Help Keep Teens Safer

It’s a boy. A boy. And yet another boy.

The ultrasound confirmed that I was officially a Mom of triplet sons which meant I was going to have my work cut out for me. It wasn’t the dirt and grime or nonstop action of raising young boys that scared me. The thought of having three sons who would grow into teenagers with a natural ‘need for speed’ is what intimidated me.

Our trio is now sophomores in high school and the new book Born to Be Wild interested me to review because I want to know if we can really help our teenagers navigate risky choices more successfully.

Can parents make a difference when it comes to minimizing risk in their child’s life?

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According to Born to Be Wild Author, Dr. Jess. P. Shatkin, we can absolutely make a difference by being proactive in our parenting.

Shatkin is a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry and pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine and also a Dad of two teenagers. His new book tells us why teens take risks, and how we can help keep them safer.

Enter to win your own free copy of Born to Be Wild now by commenting below!

How can we positively influence our teenager to make the best choices?

When our kids are young, we need to make many choices for them. As they age toward the teenage years, we need to curate their choices. Adolescence is an enormous developmental opportunity. During these years, we must allow our kids to practice all of the many things that they will one day need to do independently as adults, but we as parents must also continue providing close supervision.

How do we help our kids make healthy decisions when it comes to risky behaviors?

Dr. Shatkin recommends we take Wayne Gretzky’s advice and skate to where the puck will be. See the reality of the road ahead and be proactive in designing strategies to reduce upcoming risk factors in your child’s life.

We’re only kidding ourselves if we choose to believe that our adolescents won’t face risky situations each day. Instead of waiting for those risks to happen, we can anticipate the dangers and be ready for them.

Texting while driving, binge drinking, bullying, unprotected sex, vaping and many other risk factors are real concerns and keep us worried about our growing adolescents today.

Here are 6 proactive parenting strategies for reducing risk in our teens’ lives.

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One Sure Way To Strengthen Your Child This Summer

In a few days our kids will shut down their technology. All Snapchat streaks must come to an end.

They will bid farewell to their normally scheduled academic and athletic programming and head to the woods.

Our four teenagers will go live amongst strangers and bugs and humidity and uncomfortable beds. I’m going to assume they brush their teeth, put on deodorant and apply sunscreen on some of the days.

What I know for sure is that these few weeks at summer camp will be some of the most important days spent in their childhood.

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8 Things you Should Do for your Teen

My recent post about 8 things you should stop doing for your teens this school year went wild around the web. Parents are weighing in and while majority agree with integrating life skills into their kids lives, others have dubbed me uninvolved, lazy and say they feel sorry for my kids.

One reader said, so what do you do exactly, if you aren’t doing these things for your kids? So glad you asked….

1. Laugh and enjoy life with them

Don’t get caught up in the to do list of the day. Make connective time with your kids a priority because you can’t get one second of this back. The worst thing that can happen to us is that we have regret when our kids head out the door at 18 and we realize that we didn’t take enough time to enjoy their childhood. Seize the simple moments.

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Taking crazy family selfies after dinner on our vacation in Hawaii last week.

Purposefully prioritize time to laugh and fit in carefree fun with the kids no matter how old and cool they get. Take breaks and vacations when and where you can to reconnect with your loved ones.  Memories of time well spent together will sustain us when everyone dismantles in a few years.

2. Date their Desires

When you have teenagers, you have to be strategic to score one on one time with them. Not so long ago, I could plan anything out of the ordinary and my kids would be game. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Most ideas I come up with are met with a blank stare and a “not happening, Mom.” I must be in tune with my kids’ passions if I want to have a close relationship with them.

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Suns game with the sons!

My sons love anything sport so I take them to various college or pro baseball and basketball games each season. Or I take them to a new restaurant because food is always an easy way to a guy’s heart. With my other kids, I may choose hikes, movies, local concerts, plays or shopping excursions that feed their soul and in turn, fuel our relationship.

3.  Encourage them to advocate for themselves

Last year, a teacher forgot to input one of our son’s homework grades at the end of the quarter and it affected his final grade. The mistake had my son very upset. (He went from a high A to a low A, but to him, it was close to the end of the world.) He talked with the teacher and she apologized, but said there was nothing that could be done because grades had already been finalized. My son continued to talk his frustration out at home, so I advised him to go to the principal if he felt so strongly about it. We then talked about forgiveness and letting this mistake go, which is what he ended up doing.

What I wasn’t going to do was get involved with the teacher, even though I believed he was right. It’s hard not to write that email when our child has been wronged, isn’t it? It takes major self control to step back sometimes.  But my son needs opportunities to learn to work things out in his world without Mom swooping in for the rescue.

4. Gather for family meals

Our family dining table is a sacred space in our home. A lot of beautiful, and usually loud, bonding goes on around that table. I wrote that I no longer make weekday breakfasts or pack school lunches, but I cherish our dinnertime together.

Sharing regular meals as a family has been proven to be one of the most important things we can do in our homes. Connections are made during conversations over food. Typically, teens are spending less time with family and more time with peers, so family mealtime is an important time to be together.

5. Support their passions 

One of the most exciting aspects of being a mother is watching my kids choose their own unique paths. It intrigues me to see what makes them tick. I found myself as a volunteer judge at the high school speech and debate tournament that one son was competing in last weekend. How in the world did I end up there in my life?

I love finding myself in environments that I would never experience without my children. I’m on the sidelines of many games every weekend as well, because that’s what my others love to do. I don’t yell out or provoke them after a game, because my role is to simply support them. Their passions are not my passions and their interests are not mine. My kids know that I’ll be there when I can but that I’m not wrapped up in their performance.

6. Be the person you want your child to be

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Practice what you preach because your kids are watching you. How well are we living our own lives according to what we say is important to us? Model the values that you want to see in your kids because what they see you doing just may rub off.

I’m mindful that my children are watching me. They are seeing if what I say matters matches up with my actions and yours are doing the same!

7. Create opportunities to build empathy and compassion 

In this me, myself and I culture, it’s important that we create opportunities to serve others on a regular basis. Weave giving into your family culture so that serving others becomes who you are instead of what you do. If we want to raise kind and caring kids then we must put as much emphasis on caring for others as we do achieving good grades and winning games.

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Early Saturday morning serving with Kitchen on the Street with two of my kids!

8. Talk technology

Got kids with high tech devices that resemble a body part? Me too. We have to balance giving our teens the freedom to communicate with their peers while letting them know that we will check their phone anytime we feel it necessary. Follow your kids on whatever social media feeds they are using. Know their passwords so you can scroll through Instagram and see what their friends are posting on spam accounts. It is eye opening.  I always tell mine to remember that other parents are watching them as well. I agree with granting my child privacy, but never checking in is a mistake. We definitely grant our teens freedom and space, but they know that we care enough to check in as well.

What else should we be doing for our teens today?