Monday, December 26, 2011

Bond-Building During the Holidays, Part 4

by Emily Rankin, MAMFT

When you're low on funds:
The holidays are full of pressures to give your loved ones the next best thing or the newest, shiniest, (fill in the blank).  But what about the sentiment behind it?  We often assume that more money spent on a gift means more love and sentiment behind it.  This makes so much sense when you think about gift-giving in terms of sacrifice.  Often, the pricier the item, the greater the sacrifice on the gift-giver's part.  But a financial sacrifice is just one of the ways in which to show you care.  Take heart, financially-strapped readers! There are lots of ways to express love and sentiment without breaking the bank. 

If you're crafty and creative, DIY!!! (Do it yourself).  There are literally THOUSANDS of ideas online for making inexpensive gifts for loved ones of all ages. 

If you're not so crafty, use your words.  One of my favorite gifts I've ever gotten was a sweet note in a pretty picture frame.  I've since done this for some of my close friends and it's always a hit! You don't have to spend a fortune on the frame.  Just find a simple frame, choose your paper and pen, and write out a note.  You can use a 3 point line.  Here's one example of a letter for a sister: "Merry Christmas to my sweet sister, my eternal best friend, and my beautiful example in Christ.  I love you more than you'll ever know!"  It's short, simple, and very sweet.  The chances are good that they won't even put a picture in the frame, but will prefer to keep the sentiment as the subject for years to come. 

If you're not crafty and you're not wordy, you can give your time and services.  Make a coupon book for favors or a pre-planned calendar of acts of service.  The coupon book is great if you're fairly flexible and can be accommodating to their schedules.   If you're a busy-bee, give them a calendar of events of things that you plan to do for them over the next few weeks, or months.  You can help around the house, babysit, walk their dogs, take them to coffee, plan a series of in-home movie nights - any number of things. 

The best gifts are often the gifts that require sacrifice.  Keep that in mind when you're thinking of your loved ones and stewing over what to give them.  We've probably all gotten the gift from the "wealthier" family member that required no thought or sentiment - but only a credit card and a fully staffed gift-wrapping station.  Those gifts are not the gifts we usually remember.  We remember the song someone wrote for us or the painting that our littlest family member did in art class and "wanted to give it" to us "for Christmas."  Finding ways to show your loved ones that you love and treasure them does not always have to mean elaborate presents or time-consuming projects.  Keep it simple.  Keep it real.  Merry Christmas readers!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bond-Building During the Holidays, Part 3

by Emily Rankin, MAMFT

When you're schedule is filled to the brim
Nothing jams up a schedule quite like the holiday season.  If this sounds like your life these days, take some time to sit down with your loved ones and pick and choose the collective favorites.  You don't have to do everything you used to do.  Just choose the ones that everyone (or the majority) agrees on and pencil those into your schedules.  You might even combine a few by doing them at the same time.  You could have one family member shopping for gifts online, another decorating the tree, and another addressing and stamping the endless Christmas card mailers - all while your favorite music or movie is playing in the background.  "What if," you ask, "Santa's little 'helpers' are a little on the little side?" That's a great question.  Take a deep breath and brace yourself for the answer: Don't be afraid to abandon the way you think things should happen.  The ornaments don't have to be perfectly placed.  The stamps don't have to be right-side up.  They'll mail just the same.  Or, if you need to have those things on the fast-track, you can have your little one "read" a book aloud to you while you're working or ya'll can talk about your favorite holiday traditions together.  You can play games like "Holiday Hi's and Low's" or "I Wish the Elf on the Shelf Hadn't Seen Me ______________" while you're working. (See below for game rules).  You might be surprised at some of your answers.  If your "little" one is VERY little, strap him or her to you and keep on going.  They'll be content because you're holding them (and bonding with your baby is facilitated) - and your hands will be free.  (Google: "baby slings" to find out how to fashion one on your own or how to purchase a pre-made version). 

Holiday Hi's and Low's:
Ask your child about their best moment (thus far) of the holiday season has been and their worst moment (thus far) has been.  If it's possible, repeat the "hi's," with your children and avoid the "low's."  It's also a great way to learn more about your child and their personal preferences.  You might be surprised by some of their answers.  :-)

I Wish the Elf on the Shelf Hadn't Seen Me____________:
Ask your child to fill in the blank.  It will not only provide some (more than likely) much needed humor to your day, but will also give your child the opportunity to show remorse for mistakes or slip-ups they may have made.  Parents can play too! Model for them your ability to own your mistakes.  Maybe you got way too upset when that car stole your parking place (and your Christmas spirit).  Or maybe you lost your temper when your child threw the fit in the store and you acted in a way that you shouldn't have.  It's just as important (if not moreso) to teach your child to take responsibility for bad behavior and work to change it as it is to never make a mistake in the first place.

Bond-Building During the Holidays, Part 2

by Emily Rankin, MAMFT

When your kids who once loved all of your holiday traditions are now rolling their eyes and putting in their ear buds
Families are always in a state of change.  Always.  No matter what.  This is a difficult reality for some to face if they're 100% committed to tradition - and the holidays are most likely the time when people would be committed to tradition.  However, some teenagers aren't always excited about making gingerbread houses, decorating cookies, stringing popcorn, or watching rudolph in their new Christmas jammies.  If this sounds like your family, congratulations!  It's normal.  Find a time to sit down with your teenagers and ask them which holiday traditions they're still interested in and which ones they're not.  If you're batting 0 for 0 (meaning they don't want to do any of your regularly scheduled items), give them the freedom to change the traditions up.  Let them put their own personal spin on it.  They'll be much more likely to participate if they can claim ownership over the activity.  They might even remind you that they have teeth by smiling a time or two.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bond-Building During the Holidays

by Emily Rankin, MAMFT

The holidays are here and with that comes a multitude of family traditions, emotions, and last but certainly not least, stressors.  One of the things that helps alleviate some of those stressors is participating in bond-building activities.  Most families have their traditional bond-building activities around this time of year.  Some families get together to watch movies, others decorate cookies, -perhaps a team of siblings is responsible for choosing their parents' gifts.  Whatever your traditions may be, these bond-building activities can help reduce some of the stress you might be feeling and increase a sense of warmth, well-being, and togetherness.  As you pull your animal-patterned snuggie tight around you as your favorite Christmas movie begins, or you "accidentally" botch the icing on one of the cookies so it won't get put in the neighbor's goodie-bag, or you hug the relative you haven't seen in a year, endorphins will be released in your brain which will cause those feelings of stress and anxiety go down. 

But what about those of us whose families are changing?  Or when the people we used to have holiday traditions with aren't able, available, or interested in participating this year?  What about those of us who aren't able to afford to do the same things this year that we are used to doing? 

This month, we will be briefly addressing some of those things.  "How to Create Bond-Building Experiences When..... Topics to be covered include: 1.) Things in your family structure have shifted, 2.) Your kids who once loved all of your holiday traditions are now rolling their eyes and putting in their ear buds, 3.) Your schedule is filled to the brim, and 4.) You're low on funds.

How to Create Bond-Building Experiences When Things in Your Family Structure Have Shifted
Families change.  People change.  Kids grow up.  Sometimes family members are lost.  Other times, they're gained.  Whatever your story may be, if your family structure has changed, don't expect for your holiday traditions to remain the same.  This puts unfair expectations on yourself and everyone else involved.  It can set you up for disappointment when you don't get the same feeling you used to get AND it can breed feelings of sadness or resentment toward the departed and/or additional member. 

Instead, take this time to consider your holiday traditions and how you can adapt them to fit your new family structure.  It could be that very few changes will need to be made in order to accommodate the new family structure.  Or, it could be that you'll need to create entirely new family traditions.  Sometimes, this is the best option because it allows you to remember your old traditions with fondness while creating something entirely new.  Take this opportunity to explore your creative side and come up with some fun or funky new traditions.  Your holiday season will be more merry and bright as a result.