Monday, November 30, 2009

The Key to Enjoying the Holidays

Whole Hearted Parenting’s blogs and podcasts during the last month have been about creating peace during the holiday chaos, shifting the focus to giving and gratitude, and choosing stress-reducing gifts for parents. Today, after mailing a dozen boxes to family and friends for the holidays, I was thinking that the key to enjoying the season was organization – planning ahead, checking items off the agenda and then relaxing with a big sigh when I was done. Yes, there is a certain satisfaction to being complete with tasks. Even thought I did feel lightness in my being when walking out of the post office, my epiphany was realizing that completion and planning were not the keys at all.

For the holidays – and for life, really – waiting until the agenda items are all complete to allow yourself to experience the joy of the season – and of life, really – means postponing the wonder of the moment. I realized that I do this postponing a lot, constantly running through that mental check list, especially when it involves an event or a special occasion. That kind of thinking restricts enjoyment. I also realized that even when I feel the relief of having completed the tasks, the actual event feels less potent because I had stopped enjoying the moment in preparation for enjoying the moment!

The key to enjoying the holidays is not planning, organization, or having the most detailed checklist. It is deciding to enjoy the holidays. Once you make that decision, the experience begins. When you find yourself scanning your mental agenda or feeling stressed, decide again to enjoy every moment. With that decision, you are in the driver's seat. It is you driving your enjoyment rather than your agenda driving you.

Decide right now to enjoy every moment and see what a difference it makes! Let me know how it happens for you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Holiday Gifts that Reduce Stress for Parents

Nicole Flamer – mother of three children on the autism spectrum and host of the radio program You Aut to Know – opened our interview on Sunday, November 15th with the findings from a recent study on the mothers of children with autism. The study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, found that the levels of a hormone associated with stress were extremely low with these moms, consistent with those experiencing chronic stress, such as soldiers in combat. In the interview, we talked about the stresses of parenting and what parents can do to increase balance, calm and composure.

With the holidays approaching, I began thinking about gifts for parents that would assist them in handling stress – gifts with the direct payoff of increased calm. What better gift could there be? Here follows a list of gift ideas that parents can put on their wish lists. These are ideas for grandparents who are looking for a gift that would truly make a difference for their children and their grandchildren. There are even some suggestions for gifts for children to give their parents, and they cost absolutely nothing. Parental stress directly impacts children, spouses and the “weather” in the family, so consider a gift that creates calm.

Gifts that Relax the Body
These gifts not only relax the body but also carve out a special time for stressed parents to nurture themselves. Give the gift of a massage or series of massages. There are massage therapists who will work in your home, or if you think mom or dad would benefit more by experiencing a relaxing massage away from home, find a spa or chiropractor’s office that has a licensed massage therapist on staff. Giving a series of massages will encourage your recipient to continue on a regular basis.

A card for a series of yoga classes will also assist parents in taking time for themselves each week. Yoga impacts both the mind and the body. Through the breathing exercises and asanas – the postures practiced in yoga – parents will restore and maintain their sense of well-being, increase their strength and flexibility and gain the skills to regain composure outside of the class.

Gifts that Provide Time and Support
If you check out your thoughts when you are feeling stressed, you might notice that they are usually about “not enough.” For instance, you might be thinking “I don’t have enough time for this” if your child spills a glass of milk right before leaving for school or “I don’t have enough help” if you are exhausted and have one more load of laundry to do. Those thoughts, which Dr. Becky Bailey calls “trigger thoughts”, take you from calm to angry. A gift that provides time and support can make a huge difference.

Consider making coupons that entitle the owner to one hour of babysitting, one hour of laundry, or cooking a meal. Children can make a book of coupons offering their services to clean up the kitchen after dinner, make mom or dad a cup of tea, feed the family pets, or fold clothes.

This can become a fun craft project and making your coupon booklet is easy to do on the computer.

Gifts that Provide Parental Guidance
When parents have the tools in their parenting tool box, they are more flexible and relaxed when things come up. Consider giving the gift of a parenting course. This will not only reduce parental stress but it will also positively impact the family for generations.

The International Network for Children and Families offers the Redirecting Children’s Behavior™ Course. Check the website for resources and instructors in your area. If you are in south Florida, visit RCB South Florida.

To equip families to build a connected and cooperative family team in 2010, Whole Hearted Parenting is offering a holiday Creating Family Team Package loaded with experiential exercises that build effective communication and cooperation. Parents will watch their children become leaders and supportive team members as the family engages in family meetings, setting family goals and creating a family mission statement. The Package consists of three hours of individual coaching, the three-part Success Strategies for Family Meetings program, and two fun and informative books.

When thinking about your holiday gift for the parents in your family and network of friends, go for one that relaxes the body and mind, provides time and support or provides parental guidance. Your gift can help make 2010 the best year ever for the entire family.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Peaceful Holidays Part 1

Halloween is over and the holiday rush will soon begin. We all have special memories of the holidays, and as parents, we want to create equally special memories for our children. The relentless commercial pressure to purchase the latest toys and gadgets can make it challenging to keep the holidays focused on love, gratitude and peace. The changes in normal routines – even fun changes like visiting family members – can be disruptive. To create those endearing and enduring memories, we can employ some tips for managing what we do during this wonderful time of the year. Here are a few suggestions to make your holidays peaceful:

Have a plan to handle requests for gifts. Having a plan to handle the requests will help you parent peacefully. Here are a few suggestions:

a. Create a request list (i.e., a letter for Santa or wish list) and route all gift requests to that list. When asked to purchase something, say “That sounds like a great addition to your list!”

b. Avoid commercial television, a huge source of advertising aimed at children.

c. Avoid power struggling over requests. When your child says, “Look at how pretty! Please buy it for me!”, follow these three steps to prevent a power struggle:
o Make them right (“You are right! That is such a pretty doll!”)
o Acknowledge their desire (“I would want a doll like that, too!”)
o Fantasize about it (“What would you do with that pretty doll? What clothes would she wear? How would she get along with your other doll?”)

For more on Peaceful Holidays, please listen to our Parenting Tip of the Week at We will be talking about ideas for peaceful holidays for the next few weeks. At you will also find articles under "Resources" and our e-book, Parenting Week by Week has several chapters on reducing the stress and creating holiday family rituals.