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.

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