Christmas Break Training 101: Making Yours a Success by Erin MacPherson

sequoia and rachel, sittin' by the tree... - _MG_6719
source: seandereilinger

We love the idea of using Christmas break as a time to “train” your kids. I wrote about sleep training my daughter during Christmas break in December‘s article “Sleep Tight.” Whether you’re sleep training, potty training, moving your kid to a big-boy bed, or training your kids to eat something other than chicken nuggets, setting aside a dedicated time to do it is a great way to make sure you end up with a fully-trained (or at least mostly trained) kid.

Here are six tips to make sure your Christmas break training is a success.

  • Read up on the strategies. Before you even think about training your kid to do anything, check out a couple books from the library or ask good ole’ Mr. Google what other parents have done right … and wrong.
  • Know your kid. You know what makes your kid tick, and you know how he is going to respond to the training, so trust your instincts and come up with a plan that works for you and your family.
  • Write down your plan. If you’re sleep training, write down who is going to get up when and under what circumstances. If you’re potty training, plan how you’re going to do it and decide who is on “potty” duty when.
  • Get your supplies. Make sure you’ve stocked up on everything you need—stickers, books, caffeinated beverages for you—before the break starts.
  • Talk it up. Start talking about how excited you are about training early on. Trust us: If you’re excited about it, your kid will be excited about it.
  • Don’t let setbacks get you down. There are always accidents. You will have setbacks, and that’s okay. Tomorrow is a new day.

Erin MacPherson is an author, blogger, and mom to three preschoolers. She blogs at www.christianmamasguide.com.

Strategies for Reducing Stress During the Holidays by Marianne Neifert

Remember that your own stress level and emotional state are readily transferred to your child. Lower your expectations for the “perfect” Christmas holiday and be prepared to “go with the flow” when your child’s needs call for flexibility. Keep her emotional tank full during the holiday season by scheduling daily one-on-one time to play, read, or do an activity together.

Shorten the Countdown

An extended period of anticipation can feel overwhelming to a young child. Consider waiting until mid-December to begin your holiday decorating or to use an Advent Calendar to track the days until Christmas. To defuse children’s mounting excitement about presents, let them open a few smaller gifts during the countdown to Christmas.

Don’t Make Santa Your December Disciplinarian

The anticipation, bustle of activity, and excessive stimulation during the weeks preceding Christmas already create stress and anxiety for children. Threatening that Santa will bring fewer presents if your child misbehaves only adds to the pressure and worry she feels, and ultimately proves to be an empty threat. Don’t abdicate your essential parenting role of consistently enforcing your rules and limits for appropriate behavior year-round.

Allow Children to Let off Steam

Arrange opportunities for your child to be physically active each day by playing outdoors or visiting an indoor children’s play center.

Schedule Some Quiet Time

Periodically allow your child to retreat and unwind from the excitement of holiday festivities by watching a favorite DVD or playing quietly with arts and crafts or Play-Doh.

Don’t Force Children to Sit on Santa’s Lap

While parents relish the time-honored photo of their youngster happily smiling on Santa’s lap, young children often perceive Santa as strange and scary and may violently recoil at the idea of being held by him. While waiting in line at the mall, show your child exactly what will happen if she chooses to greet Santa. If she is terrorized by the sight of a big stranger in a red suit, respect her emotional distress and show your support by not forcing her to sit on Santa’s lap.

Do you find your children to be a little stressed during the holidays? How do you schedule downtime while still participating in traditions?
Marianne Neifert, M.D., M.T.S., also known as Dr. Mom, is a well-known pediatrician, professional speaker, and author. Visit her web site, www.dr-mom.com.

Real Life Solutions: Divorce and the Holidays

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We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

 

 

Q: My husband and I are divorced. Last Christmas was our first year apart, and the holidays were a nightmare. This year, we want to minimize the stress on our two young children during the holidays. What can we do to help them and have less fighting this year?

A: Both of you need to be respectful to each other at all times and stay calm and relaxed so as not to pass along stress to your children. Children can feel parental stress, but they don’t know how to cope with it. Whatever issues you fought about last year, talk about them ahead of time and try to come to agreement on those issues. Next, make sure the children see both parents during the holiday time. Work out a schedule before the season begins and stick to your plans. It helps to post a calendar for the children to see the plans on paper.

If your children are going to both homes on Christmas Eve and Day, stick to the pick-up and drop off times. Tell them to have a great time as you drop them off; sometimes kids need permission to have fun with the other parent. Encourage them to give you a few highlights of time with the other parent, but don’t prod for information.

Finally, build in some down time. Kids need rest and time to enjoy their new gifts. Take the time and make every effort to drop unimportant issues during this time of year. If you and your ex approach the holidays with a positive attitude, this will be passed on to your children.

How do you deal with holidays if you are divorced or separated?

Turning Holiday Service into Gospel Opportunities by Tobin Perry

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source: alessandropinna

The holiday season is undoubtedly one of the best times of the year to serve others. Your family will have no shortage of opportunities―whether it’s within your church, a local service organization, or another community group.

Yet it’s also an easy time to meet physical needs and ignore spiritual ones, if you are not intentional about sharing Jesus. Here are a few tips to help your family take advantage of gospel opportunities when you serve.

  1. Pray. Ask God to open up opportunities to tell people about Jesus―and expect Him to answer your prayer! Gather together as a family to pray for several nights before the service opportunity.
  2. Talk with your kids about your desire to see people come to Christ. Let your kids know the ultimate goal of holiday service is to introduce those you’re serving to Jesus.
  3. Work hard. When serving others, your family’s first witness comes before you ever open your mouth. What does your family’s effort tell others about the God you’re serving?
  4. Be a listener and be observant. Pay attention to those you’re serving and those you’re serving with and listen for opportunities to share the gospel. Model this for your kids.
  5. Know your story. In the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15, try to make sure each member of your family (in their own way and at their own level) can answer this question: Why are you serving us in this manner? Be ready with the story of your journey with God. Service opportunities aren’t typically the time for full-fledged apologetics discussions, but they are perfect opportunities to share your testimony. Be ready to share a short version though (maybe as short as one minute), so you’re not spending more time talking than serving!
  6. Serve freely. Never be so boorish about sharing the gospel that those you are serving think you are doing so in order to win them to Christ or invite them to church. Just be ready for the opportunities God gives you. He’ll provide!

Turning service opportunities into missions opportunities for your family doesn’t have to be scary. Just keep your eyes open!

Tobin Perry serves as the online editor for On Mission magazine at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Georgia. He and his wife, Charissa, live in Woodstock, Georgia, with their three children―all under the age of 6!

Fun Traditions and UnTraditions by G.G. Mathis

19/52 Tristan
source: edjohnson841

The November issue of ParentLife declared independence on tired and tedious holiday traditions in the article “Freedom From Tradition.” Families were encouraged to celebrate meaningfully and playfully in ways that create lasting memories, not lasting fatigue.

Need some ideas for an out-of-the-ordinary way to observe special days at your house? We’ve compiled some of our favorites:

We bought two tiny Christmas trees, one for each of our sons to put in his room. The boys were allowed to decorate the trees any way they liked. Some years, the decorations would change daily—action figures one day, paper chains the next; even socks and underwear!

Instead of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, we stock up on take-and-bake pizzas the night before. We bake them, eat from paper plates, and spend the day playing games together, not cooking!

We decided that a bunny visit on Easter Sunday detracted from the message of Jesus’ resurrection. So at our house, by mutual consent, the Early Bunny visits on the Saturday before Easter, leaving Sunday for worship and family time.

Nobody in our family cares much about football. So we plan a special dinner out on Superbowl Sunday evening. The restaurants aren’t crowded!

In our family, Roses Day (October 1) commemorates the day I received a dozen roses and a clue to the identity of the man I eventually married. Roses Day was such an important part of our family tradition, my daughter was puzzled after school one October first: “Mom, nobody at school has ever heard of Roses Day!”

Instead of a huge birthday present blowout that’s over in 10 minutes, we leave small gifts for the birthday boy (or girl) in unexpected places all day long.

We have a Thanksgiving tablecloth that comes out of storage every year. With fabric paint, each family member prints something for which he or she is thankful. It’s a great way to remember how God has cared for us over the years.

G.G. Mathis teaches preteens at Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin, Missouri.

Real Life Solutions: Thanksgiving

We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Source: uniquecraft.info via C on Pinterest

 

Q: Thanksgiving is a holiday that doesn’t seem to get its due. I want my children to understand the meaning of the holiday, as it is an important part of American history. What kinds of activities can I do with my children that will teach them more about this important day?

A: I agree that Thanksgiving doesn’t get the same attention as other holidays. Yet it is an important part of American history that should not be relegated to a big meal. Here are a few ideas.

  • Print up a paper that says, “I am thankful for … ” and every day in November encourage your kids fill in the blank. Then, read a few of their answers on Thanksgiving.
  • Print up an Indian sign language chart and use them to tell a story.
  • Cook a few original colony foods (you can look these up on the Internet) and talk about the first feast.
  • Try your hand at several colonial crafts like weaving and pottery making with homemade clay.
  • Get an archery board and shoot arrows.
  • Build a campfire and try to cook something over it.

Activities like these will make the holiday come alive and give an appreciation of what times were like during colonial days.

Finally, find quotes about the holiday, such as this one from Abraham Lincoln: “But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, by the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.” Talk about what Lincoln meant and how your family can remember to give God the glory for all you have.

What do you do to teach your children about Thanksgiving?

Source: Read & Write Booklets: Thanksgiving: 10 Nonfiction Booklets That Teach About the Mayflower, Pilgrims, Wampanoag, and More! by Alyse Sweeney (Scholastic Teaching Resources, 2010)

Halloween Safety

If you do participate in Halloween, here are some tips we originally published in 2009. Have a good night, whatever you’re doing!

Pumpkin Festival
source: nates_pics

Halloween is an exciting time of year for kids, and to help ensure they have a safe holiday, here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

All Dressed Up

  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement, or contact with flame.
  • Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
  • When shopping for costumes, wigs, and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
  • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
  • Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.

Carve a Niche

  • Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers.  Then parents can do the cutting.
  • Votive candles are safest for candle-lit pumpkins.
  • Candle-lit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.

Home Safe Home

  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes, and lawn decorations.
  • Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
  • Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

On the Trick-or-Treat Trail

  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
  • Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or Treaters:
    1. Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
    2. Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
    3. Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
    4. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
    5. Never cut across yards or use alleys.
    6. Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
    7. Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!
  • Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

Healthy Halloween

  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
  • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
  • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped, or suspicious items.
  • Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.

© 10/09 American Academy of Pediatrics

For even more safety tips, to send these tips to a friend, or to download them in Spanish, visit http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/octhalloween.cfm.

Real Life Solutions: No Halloween

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We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: My husband and I decided we are not going to celebrate Halloween. Our child is 3 years old, and she doesn’t know much about the holiday yet, but I have been surprised at how many people, Christians included, have given us a hard time about our decision. What is your opinion?

A: After researching the roots of Halloween, I am not a fan either. I don’t like the connection to occult roots, the scary costumes, the gore, and the idea of frightening kids and desensitizing them to the dark spiritual world that does exist. However, every family needs to make a decision as to what they are going to do with Halloween. Some people allow their kids to dress up in fun costumes and trick or treat. Others attend alternate harvest parties at their churches. Some feel alternatives should not be offered as it assumes kids are missing something.

The important thing to do is research the holiday, pay attention to what you feel the Lord is telling you to do, and talk as a family. Pray for wisdom and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, not other people. Then help your child understand the position you take and why.

Other people should respect your decision. You don’t need the approval of others. Romans 12:2 reminds us not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Taking a stand for what you believe to be true based on Scripture is an important lesson to model for children. Perhaps that is what you will teach your child as she gets older.

What do you think, PL Readers?

Real Life Solutions: Exposing Children to Drinking Relatives

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: We will be traveling to our relatives in another state for several family gatherings during Christmas. Two of my siblings are problem drinkers, and I am not sure how to handle this with my family. We do not drink, so my children are not used to seeing family members act up while under the influence. In the past, the drinking has gotten out of hand. My children are now old enough to ask questions. What do I do or say if the drinking starts to become a problem again?

A: Drinking during the holidays can get out of control and create many problems for families, especially in families where problem drinkers are in denial and do nothing to prevent getting intoxicated. The best advice is to make sure that when you visit, you have a way of escape. Even if your siblings offer to let you stay at their homes, reserve a room at a hotel. That way, if their behavior becomes problematic, you can leave.  

Before you travel, I would tell them and your parents that the past history of drinking makes you uncomfortable and that if things begin to get out of control, you will excuse yourself and leave. This way it puts the burden on them to moderate. If they persist in their behavior, you explained the rules ahead of time.

If you leave, have a talk with your children about the importance of family (the reason you continue to visit) but that there are times family members must set limits and boundaries on behavior that is unsafe or inappropriate. Being around people who are drunk is not something you want to expose them to or be around. Altered states change people in ways that are not always nice. This is a hard line to take but one that will earn the respect of your children and may cause others to rethink their enabling behavior.

Don’t allow anyone to put guilt on you for setting boundaries. You are not telling your family what to do but telling them what you will or will not tolerate to keep your family safe.

You can see more advice from Dr. Linda on her blog.

Do you have experience with having to set boundaries with family members? Please share your advice in the comments.

The Art of Good Manners

It is never too early to teach your youngest family member how to be a gracious guest. As holiday gatherings approach, prepare your child with some manners. Encourage her to try the following.

  • Look people in the eyes and say, “Hello.”94_child.jpg
  • Resist the temptation to complain — about the food, entertainment, or other guests.
  • Say, “Thank you” when served food or beverages.
  • Stay where the party is. Do not wander into rooms with closed doors.
  • Clean up after yourself. Do not expect someone else to do it.
  • Agreeably leave when Mom or Dad says it is time to go.
  • Thank the host and hostess for inviting you.

For more about manners be sure and check out "The Art of Saying Thanks" by Kay Harms in the November 2009 issue of ParentLife. Also check out these books on manners!