Our counsellor newsletter from Linda Campbell, School Counsellor, School District 57
Avoid Holiday Chaos
Tip—Planning ahead, as a family, can make the holidays much less crazy and more enjoyable.
Okay, you know it’s almost here. The winter holidays are supposed to happy and full of good cheer—yet what you often experience is an overload of activities, tasks, and frazzled family members. What can you do this year to have a warm, happy time with your family and friends and not find yourself cracked up on the sidewalk by January 1st?
The answer is to plan ahead and keep your schedule reasonable. Especially if you have young children, they will thank you to keep it all simple. If you have older children, you have a wonderful chance to set an example of how to celebrate the season without running everyone ragged.
- Begin with a discussion of choices available. Go around the table and ask each family member which holiday activity is most important to them. You might say something like, “We will definitely be having our traditional Christmas morning breakfast and gift exchange at home. Then we will eat dinner at Grandma’s house with the cousins, as usual. All other activities are up for debate. Everyone can make a request for what is most important to them.” Dad might like driving around to look at holiday light displays best. Your five-year-old’s favorite thing may be watching all the animated holiday movies on TV. The ten-year-old may be most attached to making and delivering cookies to friends and neighbors. Mom might like to attend the church Christmas dinner. Decide together how much is reasonable to put on your calendar. Make sure each person has at least one event from their “most important” list included.
- Discuss likes, limitations, and difficulties. Maybe Dad would rather have a root canal than go caroling one more year. Perhaps Mom would like others to pitch in and help with wrapping gifts. Maybe finances are tight right now and price limits on gifts need to be discussed. The family planning session is where all these concerns can be brought up and compromises found.
- Make lists of To-Do items. There are lots of tasks that go along with the holidays—decorating, shopping for gifts, shopping for food, preparing holiday meals, sending out cards, wrapping gifts, standing in line at the post office, etc. Here’s a news flash: Mom doesn’t have to do all these things by herself. She doesn’t even have to supervise all of them. Make assignments. Younger children will need a parent, older sibling, or grandparent to help them accomplish their tasks—assign the older person at the same time you give the child the task. Children are usually very excited to help. For example, school-age children could be put in charge of table settings for the family Hanukkah dinner. Younger children could be in charge of planning games for after dinner or could help to clean before the event.
Tip—It is crucial to talk about our feelings after a loss—especially a loss like death.
Death isn’t easy for any of us, but it can be particularly hard to explain it to children younger than six years old. Young children don’t always show their feelings the way adults do and indeed, many of them do not yet have the vocabulary to express what they’re feeling. It is essential for parents and other caring adults in these children’s lives to help them talk about the loss and thereby begin to work through their grief.
Early childhood educator, Lory Britain, Ph.D., author of My Grandma Died: A Child’s Story about Grief and Loss, portrays a young child dealing with grief.The child in the story says, “I hurt inside. But not the kind of hurt when I fell off my bike and skinned my knees and elbow. I really hurt inside. I feel sad and mad and scared and lonely and all mixed up together.” Dr. Britain recommends talking in a simple way with your child about her feelings. Name them for her if she can’t. You can say something like, “It sounds like you’re missing Grandma. You really loved her and now you’re sad you can’t go see her anymore.I’m sad, too.”
Tools—There are several things you can do with young children to help them identify their feelings and begin to heal. The following ideas are only a few drawn from My Grandma Died.
Share stories of the grandparent with your child. Encourage her to share her memories with you.Tell her that sharing stories helps you see Grandma in your minds and this helps you to feel a little better.
Look at pictures of Grandma together. Talk about the times you shared.
Encourage your child to draw a picture of her feelings—or draw a picture of herself with Grandma. Look at the picture with her and talk about what she drew.
Note: a grieving child who has not experienced some healing within three months may need professional help from a counselor or therapist.
- Motivating a Morning Dawdler
Tip–Start with establishing a morning routine to get a morning dawdler on track; if that doesn’t work, try a consequence.
It’s fall, the leaves are turning, the apples are ripening, and your school-aged children again have to be out the door by 7:50am. Some children rise to this challenge and easily make it out the door, more or less neat, lunch and backpack in hand. And then there’s the dawdler. It seems as though every morning it’s a battle, a crisis, or at the very least, stress for you in getting this one child out the door to meet the school bus.
“I think this issue is important to address because getting somewhere on time, on a daily basis, is alife skill we all need,” says Shari Steelsmith, author of Go to Your Room!: Consequences That Teach. “Before using a consequence, however, I’d look at the child’s temperament and see if that was a factor. For example, is this kid typically a slow-mover? Is he easily distracted? Is he easily overwhelmed by multiple tasks?” If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, Steelsmith recommends instituting a set-in-concrete morning routine with a checklist of tasks posted prominently in his room. The sameness of the routine every day will feel secure to the child and the poster will do the reminding you used to do, yet the responsibility will be on his shoulders. “Work with your child on this routine,” advises Steelsmith. “Consult him on the order of tasks and get his opinion on how much time he needs for each. Then set the morning alarm accordingly.” If he has success with this program, you may wish to reward him in the beginning; as he gains competence, decrease the rewards.
Well, okay, but what do you do when none of the above works? What do you do when you routinely find your ten year old son playing with blocks instead of getting dressed/eatingbreakfast/brushing teeth, etc.? “This sounds like the time for consequences,” says Steelsmith. “When your best efforts with other guidance tools don’t make a difference, try a natural or logical consequence.”
Tools–The following consequence ideas are drawn from Go To Your Room!
If a child is dawdling instead of getting dressed, say, “You have (X) minutes until we leavef or school. Get dressed now or dress in the car.” Then set the timer. If he’s not ready when the bell rings, pick him and his clothes up and have him dress in the car.
If your child dawdles and misses the bus, tell him, “It’s too late to go to school today.” Give him an unending supply of chores to do until school is over for the day (raking leaves, pulling weeds, mopping floors). No time off except for bathroom breaks and lunch.
If a child dawdles and fails to make his lunch before it’s time to go, he goes without lunch that day.
Lastly, it should go without saying to turn off the TV in the morning while children are getting ready for school. TV distracts everyone. (For more information on dawdling and younger children, see also Tip & Tool article Dealing with Dawdling–Dec. 20, 1997)
Helping Your Child Respond to Put-Downs
Tip—Role play ahead of time some useful responses to put downs.
One of the more unpleasant things about life (not that I’m counting, or anything) are put-downs. Children are in the process of being socialized—they aren’t all the way there yet. The simple truth is that they often hurt or offend each other. Teaching them to be kind to others is a big part of parenting and one, I think, that parents instinctively focus on from the early years. Teaching them how to respond to an unkind put down is harder for us parent-types. Our children are so close to our hearts, when they get hurt, we hurt with them and for them. Our first reaction may be to simply deny the put down. Let’s say your daughter comes home in tears, reporting that two girls on the playground called her ugly. You might respond, “Well, that’s just not true—you’re very pretty.” The trouble with this response is that your daughter isn’t worried about your opinion. She’s upset because two girls she thought could be her friends were mean to her and she didn’t know how to respond to them.
Recently my fourth grade son came home with a similar story. He sits across from a boy who likes to put down others. That day, my son had been slow in looking up a word in the dictionary. The teacher waited for him to find the word before going on. In the pause that followed, the boy commented disgustedly, “Come on Ben-Daniel. You should know this!” Ben-Daniel was upset by this comment and others from this boy.
As a parent, one way I could see to help was to bring him up to speed with his dictionary skills. If he was quicker at looking up words, he wouldn’t open himself up to criticism in that way. But Ben-Daniel wasn’t particularly bothered by his slow dictionary skills, the more immediate problem for him was responding to the critical boy.
- Clarify the situation. This tool can be helpful with some put downs. When a child clarifies a situation, she can also state her expectations. For example, the little girl who was called ugly could respond with, “That’s a mean thing to say. Calling names is breaking the school rules.” Then the focus is no longer whether the little girl is ugly, it becomes whether or not the others are following school rules.
- Use humor. Responding to put downs with a funny comment is a time-honored way to defuse tension and turn negative attention into positive. One boy, when he was teased about his large ears, smiled and commented, “They’re my satellite dishes—I can hear things you wouldn’t dream of.” This kind of self-effacing humor deprives the other child of any attention.
- Do something unexpected. When a child delivers a put down, he or she is usually looking to display power or dominance. The expected response from the put down child is hurt, embarrassment, or defensiveness. When a child responds unexpectedly, he or she undermines that goal and takes away the attention the first child was after. For example, my son decided that the next time a put down was directed at him, he would put his book down, look straight at the boy and say in a mildly sarcastic fashion, “Thank you for your input.”
- Get help. If put downs keep happening and your child’s best efforts aren’t helping, it is appropriate to get adult help. Children can approach their teachers, parents, or other grownups in charge.
Community Resources for Parents
A Provincial Resource for those suffering with mental illness or addiction
For those of you with tweens and teens, this website may be of interest. mindcheck.ca is a youth and young adult-focused interactive website where visitors can check out how they’re feeling and get connected to support early and quickly. It is a good resource for family members who want to learn more about supporting a child with early signs of mental illness or substance misuse.
Active Parenting for Stepfamilies
The program will run for 6 weeks on Wednesday evenings from 7-9, held at the CDC beginning on January 16 2013. Cost: free Child-minding will be provided if needed. Pre-registration is required. Space is limited. Call the CDC to register. Contacts: Lorinda Johnston 250-563- 7168 ext 210 or Colleen Soares 250-563-7168 ext 228
Christmas Skating at the YMCA
Join us December 22, 23, 29 and 30 for fun family skating at the Coliseum from 12:00pm-2:00pm Prices can be found at www.pgymca.com
Itsy Bitsy Yoga
AiMHi Infant Development Program IDP presents “Itsy Bitsy Fridays” at AiMHi. BABY Itsy Bitsy Yoga(r) offers a developmentally- focused yoga class designed to nurture babies. Parents learn dozens of poses to soothe and support their babies’ development. TOT Itsy Bitsy Yoga offers a yoga class that complements a tot’s curiosity and exploration of movement. No cost SIGN UP is required ahead of time. BABY Itsy Bitsy Yoga (Ages: 3 weeks – almost crawling) Fridays 11 am- 12 pm TOT Itsy Bitsy Yoga (Ages: Crawling – 24 months) Fridays 9:30 – 10:30 am Location: AiMHi 950 Kerry Street We will be running 4 week sessions periodically from Sept thru June. Call for dates. Contact IDP @ 250-564-6408 ex 247, 248, 249, or