Falling in love with your family

The arrival of December too often corresponds with the arrival of ulcers.  The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time, but too often we get caught up in expectations and forget to celebrate.  Here are some suggestions for making the Holiday Season more meaningful for your family.

1. Focus on your religious tradition

Don’t forget the whole point of the celebration!  When we keep the commercial aspect of the holiday in check, we leave room for the spirit of the events that we hold dear.  Keep church meetings, service projects, scripture readings, and other religious traditions at the center of your celebration.

2. Explore another religious traditions

The month of December is a special month for many world cultures.  If you are Christian, consider learning more about Hanukkah and the miracle of the oil.  There are delicious Jewish food that are prepared this time of year, and children love playing games with the dreidel.  Consider talking about the principles of Kwanzaa with your family: Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.  Even though religious and cultural traditions have much to separate them, celebrating other holidays helps children develop an open mind towards others, and can give insights into their own beliefs.

3. Party like your Ancestors

One of our favorite traditions is choosing a country our ancestors come from, and learning what a traditional Christmas looked like in those countries.  We’ve made figgy puddy when we focused on England, enjoyed our shortbread and learned the Highland Fling as we got to know our Scottish ancestors, and enjoyed days of great Swiss chocolate.  An easy internet search or a trip to the library will help you gather ideas for games, foods, and activities that can help you connect with your family’s past.  If you don’t know where you come from, this is a great chance to ask older relatives, look on familysearch.org, or sign-up for ancestry.com.

4. Go for a Theme

Maybe there is a theme that can unify your efforts this Christmas.  One example of this would be to have a “Little House on the Prairie” Christmas.  The books are filled with great descriptions of Laura’s holiday celebrations, and there are even Little House recipe books available.  Even the stockings could contain what the books describe.  You could also focus on another time period and have a traditional Colonial Christmas, or create the holiday meal of Lewis and Clark.

5. Remember: You don’t have to be like your neighbor

Much of the stress that comes from the Holidays is from looking around and buying into the media’s opinion of what our celebration needs to look like, feel like, and cost.  We don’t all have to do things the same way!  We’re not in a contest with our friends and family to see who can have the cutest hand-made stockings, or the biggest presents under the tree.  Be creative, be content, and do things your own way.

6. Enjoy the Journey

Most memories are made by our attitudes, not by the event.  Choosing a Christmas tree or going on a sleigh ride can be a terrible experience for kids if parents have short tempers.  But even cleaning the house or getting lost on a trip can be wonderful memories if parents meet the challenge with a sense of humor.  Focus on your family,  and let yourself have a meaningful, magical Holiday Season.

Falling in Love with your Family by Alison


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Tips for the first day of school,  5 foolproof tips getting your little one to go to school with a smile, parenting tipsIn a Nutshell: Here’s a couple of tips that may help reduce the drama as homebodies go to school.

A decade ago, my first child walked into his Kindergarten classroom with a nonchalant “Bye, Mom” and a quick wave.  I was the one biting my lip until I could sob in the privacy of my car.  Other partings have been a little more…well…let’s just say it’s a shame Kindergarteners can’t register for classes in the drama department.  I’ve had one kid who would become near-hysterical, and another who would cry so pathetically in the back of the car that I felt I was sending him in to be eaten by wolves.  I’ve decided there is a very elite club of Those-Who-Do-Not-Go.  You didn’t do anything wrong if you have one–I’m convinced some kids come out of the womb as card-carrying members.  If you happen to be parenting a member of this club, here are a couple tips that may help get them through that door.

1) Watch your own emotions.

Having already admitted that I cry when my kids go to school, the first suggestion is to mind your own emotions.  Parents are powerful social transmitters of emotion to their children, and kids often look to us to see when they should be anxious, excited, or scared.  Be careful about saying things like, “What am I going to do without you?” or “I’m going to miss you so much!”  A child may internalize that you won’t be okay without them.  Be cheerful, upbeat, relaxed, and excited for your child’s new experience…and save your tears for the car.

2) Talk it out.

Don’t fall in the “suck it up” trap.  School is a big step for shy kids, and they are having very real emotions even if it doesn’t make sense to us.  Talk through their concerns.  Maybe they are worried about using the bathroom at school, or they may be concerned that you won’t be there to pick them up on time.  Take time to dig a bit.  Sometimes children just need to verbalize their fears and get reassurance.

3) Practice, Practice, Practice

Consider practicing saying goodbye.  This may seem silly but it is a winner for kids who do fine once you are gone, but have a hard time separating.    When one of mine was refusing to get out of the car at the drop-off, we drove back to school later that evening.  We had decided that big boys who go to school deserve a Chuck-E-Cheese token each morning.  I had already picked up the tokens, and told him when he had 5, we could go play.  We practiced giving one hug and two kisses (what he decided he needed) and saying goodbye.  He walked to the school doors and waved.  At home, I pretended to give him the token.  If there was a day we had a scene at the drop-off, I took him back later that evening to practice again.  It was a rough for a few days, but he never had another hard separation after that first trip to Chuck-E-Cheese.

4) Enlist help.

To solve my daughter’s shyness, it took a nice helper at the school who offered to walk her to her classroom.  My son had a sweet guidance counselor at his school that let him come visit her in her office first, before going on to his classroom.   If you communicate the problem to your child’s teacher, they may have a special job your child can help with before the other kids come in from the playground, or another great idea to help your child transition more easily.  I promise–they’ve seen it before.

5) Be creative!

Whether it is Chuck-E-Cheese tokens, hair bows, a special lovey tucked in their backpack, extra kisses to save for later, or a heart in their lunch, you can find something that will work for your child.  Brainstorm with your spouse, ask friends, or ask your child.  He may have a great idea.

As I write this, my now 12-year-old is standing by me, laughing at our recollections of his oh-so-sad  Kindergarten self.  He said that he kept, and still has, one of those Chuck-E-Cheese tokens from his Kindergarten year.  So, if your mornings are spent prying a little one off your leg at the classroom door, don’t worry too much.  I have it on good authority that your little homebody is probably going to turn out to be one marvelous kid.

What have you done to help children adjust to school?

Here is a little poem I wrote a few years back as I was feeling sentimental about sending off of my Emma for her first day of school.

One Week Before Kindergarten

By: Alison Moulton

                I see you from the window

As I do dishes


Sunshine soaking your hair

Mud soaking your dress

As you pet the cat and eat garden peas.





Again and again

For an hour or more.

You know your letters

And how to write your name.

You know what to do if someone tries

To take your lunch

Or pull you from a swing.

We’ve practiced all this.

But bells will soon ring

And lines will form.

You will try to find your place

And kids will laugh and cut

In front

Before the teacher sees.

So stay outside, love,

Soak up another hour of light

And garden

And mud.

Cross-contaminate your little hands

With peas and cat hair.

The sanitizer dispenser

Will be posted

By your classroom door

Next week.

So soon.

Too soon.

Falling in love with your family by Alison

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