I can still hear my grandmother saying the prayer before a meal. I can still hear my father saying the same prayer. I taught the same prayer to my children and grandchildren. In fact if I am rushed before a meal and forget, one of the grandkids will remind me of the prayer. Do you have a similar ritual in your family? So what’s my point?
It is really a simple, yet powerful, concept – rituals. Do not minimize the importance of rituals in your home. These rituals, similar yet unique in each family, have a significant impact on a child’s development of faith.
Let’s think about some other rituals you might observe. Perhaps you set up a Nativity at Christmas or light candles at Chanukkah. Maybe there are bedtime prayers or a scaled down activity schedule on the Sabbath. Religious symbols might be placed in the home. Some rituals revolve around food – eating kosher, having fish on Friday, giving up chocolate for Lent. This is just a small sampling of rituals in the home but should give you an idea of what I mean.
Granted, religious services can be part of a child’s spiritual training. But what happens in the home is part of a child’s daily life; it’s up close and personal. Home rituals also give you as the parent a chance to model (notice how I weave that concept into most topics) your own beliefs.
Ok, here’s a big question for parents – should your child attend the funeral of a family member, friend, classmate, or neighbor? Maybe we should begin with why we have funerals. Funerals are a ceremony, a ritual that serves important functions. It is an occasion to celebrate the life of a deceased person and acknowledge the reality of his or her death. Funerals are a step in the mourning process.
Let’s be honest. Funerals are difficult for adults and that impacts our feelings about children’s attendance. Whether you should take your child to a funeral depends on the child and the situation. If your child is old enough and wants to go, then being included can be helpful. And depending on who died, it may be important for you to have your child present.
The big issue is preparation. Explain to your child what will happen at the funeral. This includes visitation (if attending) plus before, during, and after the funeral. Talk about the setting, music, flowers, service, casket. Let your child know people will be sad and some may cry, including yourself. If you have spiritual or religious beliefs, share how death is perceived. Depending on your own relationship with the deceased, you may want to have another family member or friend be with your child. Above all, don’t leave a child to experience the events alone.
I found that taking a child to the funeral home ahead of the visitation or service is a good step. Then the child can look and ask questions. This will help both of you find comfort and meaning. Likewise, a trip to the cemetery ahead of time can relieve fears. A funeral and burial is NOT a time for surprises. Don’t assume that once the funeral is over that’s it. Set aside some quiet time to hold your child, talk about the experience, and provide a feeling of safety and comfort.
Like many kids, I grew up with pets. There were hamsters and turtles and fish and cats and dogs and chickens. Yes, chickens – remember I was a farm kid. So I tried to remember what it felt like when the pets died. I have vivid memories of some pets like my dog Boo and others not so much.
When a pet dies, the amount of information or what you say, depends on the child’s age, experiences, and maturity level. Offer your child a clear and simple explanation. Let your child’s questions guide the details you reveal.
Tell the truth. Use the actual words “death,” “dying,” or “died.” Be sure your child understands the pet’s body stopped working; it died; and will not be coming back. Do not say Baxter ran away when he really crawled in the garage and died. Do not say Penelope went to sleep and won’t wake up. Children take literally what you say and false statements will confuse them. Eventually your child will figure out you lied and that starts to complicate trust issues.
Sometimes there is a chance to say goodbye and if a child able to do so, that can be helpful. The family may want to observe the pet’s death in a special way. I remember wrapping pets in cloth, putting them in shoe boxes, and burying them in a special place. Every pet, no matter type or size, always got a burial ceremony. We talked about our pets, remembering the funny stories and antics.
And here’s one last tip. Don’t immediately get another pet. We don’t want children to think pets and people are replaceable. Wait until your child asks to get a new kitten. Then you can talk about how welcoming a new furry friend into your home is a way to honor the life of the pet that died.
Do you have a memory of a pet that died? How did your parents handle the situation? What have been your experiences with your own child?
Ok, it’s true confession time. I always maintained that I would age gracefully. I have wonderful role models in my family and community who exemplify the “older person I want to be.” So what am I learning about this aging gracefully concept?
These aging adults have one thing in common – generativity. That’s not a word we use often, but it is a concern for others developed during middle age. It is a need to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation. Adults often do this by being active in their communities.
We’ve seen the generativity idea reinforced by participants in the Mid Life & Beyond program. Enrolled communities start with study circles using a guide, A Community for People 45 and Beyond. It is an opportunity for people to talk together and find ways to make their community a place where people can live successfully as they age.
This brings us full circle back to the children. Aging adults who remain active and want to guide younger people are serving as aging gracefully role models. How does the idea of generativity fit with what you know about older adults?
Last week I spent an evening helping my granddaughter with an assignment for a college aging class. She needed to interview a person about a variety of issues relating to aging and I was the lucky one. 🙂
Her opening comment, “this class is so boring” immediately caught my attention. I wondered if the topic of aging seems boring to most young people. Caught up in the excitement of youth, do they look at people my age and think life must be boring for us?
However, as my granddaughter asked me questions she quickly identified me as active and engaged. She said I have a job, travel, enjoy hobbies, spend time with friends and family, and am involved in the community. Whew – at least maybe I’m not so boring.
Adult development was one of the final topics we discussed. That was a revelation as my granddaughter had not considered that adults continue to grow and development. So I got to thinking – do most young people assume that once you are an adult, that’s it?
All in all, an interesting discussion for both of us. I can’t wait for her next assignment in this class. I have the perfect opportunity to increase my granddaughter’s understanding of people’s lives as they age and how it is anything but boring.
You remember them don’t you – the old tan rough looking sacks. Stuffed in the corner of the shed, barn, or garage, these sacks were used for storage. So what do gunny sacks have to do with conflict between spouses or partners?
We recognize that conflict happens and does not predict couple or family problems. But research does tell us that dangerous patterns of thinking and behaviors can lead to serious problems. One of these communication patterns is gunny-sacking. Very simply, this is keeping things in and then dumping them all at once. Picture all the unkind words, slights, perceived wrongs, and accusations stuffed into the gunny sack. Then one day when you go to stuff one more thought into the bag, it is full. So you turn the gunny sack upside down on the floor and all the hurt, pain, and anger spill out – right onto your spouse or partner. The next picture isn’t going to be a pretty one.
Managing Conflict: Escalating and De-Escalating is just one of the lessons in a series, Together We Can: Creating a Healthy Future for our Family. This program is for single parents or couples who are in conflicted or unstable relationships and have young children.
Let’s jump right in with what I see as one of the best tools for improving communication with your spouse/partner. And in turn that will likely reduce disagreements. It is as simple as using “I” statements instead of “You” statements.
Here’s an example for a “you” message. “You forgot to pick up milk on your way home from work. How stupid can you be?” Or, “I can’t believe how stupid you are. You forgot to get the milk again.” That second set of statements is what we call a “hidden you” message.
Now let’s try a true “I” statement. “I need milk for dinner. There is none left in the refrigerator.” Do you see the difference? When we drop the accusatory and blaming words (and tone), we have a much better chance of getting the problem solved. In this example, what I really need is milk. This isn’t worth a full scale argument between two tired adults at the end of a long work day.
Using “I” statements is a respectful way of having a conversation. It helps you focus on the immediate problem or need, instead of escalating into a battle and bringing in more issues.
Have you tried “I” statements? Do you think this communication tool might work?
Teens love to hang out together – in large groups, small groups, and couples. As parents, we’re happy they have friends. But then we start to worry when the friends turn into boyfriends and girlfriends. Our immediate reaction may indeed be, “no dating until you’re 30!”
Realistically we know that’s not likely to happen, so how can we approach the dating decisions? Let’s return to one of the five basics of parenting adolescents. Monitor and observe means that you let your teen know you are aware of their activities and relationships.
In the beginning, there may be direct supervision. Perhaps you volunteer to chaperone the school dance or let some dates happen in your home. You might give the teens a ride to the movie, mall, or game. As the teens get older and have more experiences, your monitoring becomes less supervision and more communication. Ask where your teen is going, who is the date, and what the couple plans to do. When this is done in a conversational way, rather than an inquisition, you are more likely to get an honest answer.
Another important strategy is to build a network with other parents and adults in the community. Be willing to let each other know of the good things happening as well as any troubling trends or events. Watch for signs of troubled relationships or abuse.
Dating is a natural evolution in relationships. While this issue may always strike angst in the heart of parents, dating is another step on the road to adulthood. Supervision, communication, observation, and networking with other adults are the keys to successfully traveling that road.
What family rules do you have for dating?
Yes, parents still matter in the lives of their teens. Teens do care about you even though at times you may wonder. And – you’re not done modeling. In the podcast we shared the five basics of parenting adolescents with one being model and consult.
So you might be thinking – give me some specific strategies. The obvious one is to set a good example with your habits – eating, drinking, physical activity, risk taking. That old escape line of “Do what I say, not what I do” really doesn’t cut it with teens. And certainly you can model adult relationships – with employers, friends, partners, and spouses. Your teens will learn from how you interact and treat other people.
Here’s another strategy – answer teens’ questions. It’s ok to express your personal opinions on issues. Your teens may not agree but you are modeling different viewpoints and how to talk with people who take different positions. In our house we had the rule that we could talk about anything as long as people were respectful. Worked pretty well for us and it’s a strategy I continue today now that the kids are adults with teens of their own.
Have you considered that establishing or maintaining traditions is a form of modeling? During the holiday season families observe lots of traditions – some silly, some serious, some sacred. Traditions are often a tangible expression of values. For example, going to the grandparents’ home for a holiday meal and celebration models the importance we place on family. Attending a religious service on Sunday morning demonstrates spiritual values. Buying toys for an Empty Stocking program says we care about those less fortunate than us.
Now you get the picture. Teens still need their parents to provide information, teach by example or modeling, and carry on conversations about relevant issues. That’s a tall order but you are raising teens and these final years under your care are setting them on the path to adulthood.
I’ve got my list and I’m checking it twice. No, I’m not the jolly old Santa whose lap the kids climb on with those endless “I want” lists. Rather I am the Grandmother wondering what I can get the grandkids that they will appreciate and use. Gone are the days when it was so easy buying for the babies.
So what to do? Well I could get a list from the kids or ask their parents for ideas. Or, I could figure out ways to give of myself to strengthen the bonds of connection. Perhaps there is a combination of the two that makes sense for me.
Kristi Cooper, a co-worker, recently wrote two handouts that are filled with practical ways to create meaning.
Giving and receiving gifts is an expression of love. It can be done in a manner that is respectful to needs, wants, finances, and family values. When gift giving occasion arise – holidays, birthdays, and special events – I give from the heart. Honoring the special connection with my grandkids is priceless.
How do you handle gift giving with your grandkids?
I am the proud grandmother of seven young adults. They range in age from 14 – 24. Obviously they are well beyond the days of cuddling on my lap or arriving at the door with little suitcase in hand ready for a sleepover. As grandchildren grow up, it becomes a challenge as to how to keep connected.
Fascinating information from a new AARP survey reveals that more than 80% of grandparents speak to their grandchildren on the phone at least once a month. More than 1/3 do their communication via new technology – think Skype, Facebook, texting. So I started asking myself if I fit these results. I use Facebook for keeping up day-to-day. I text when I want a quick check-in. Phone calls follow if we need a longer conversation.
And what do we talk about? Again I’m right in tune with the survey results. The AARP survey says 50% talk about morals and values; religion and spirituality; peer pressure or bullying; illegal drugs; and drinking and alcohol use. Dating or sex are topics for 37% of the grandparents. I have to laugh as I often start conversations with some of the grandkids with this question, “And are you making good choices?”
The data about frequency of communication, as well as topics, fits well with grandparents serving a role as mentor and teacher. We have a wonderful chance to help grandchildren by sharing our experiences and knowledge, all wrapped up in a big dose of love. A personal aside – I always end my texts with Love, Gma.
How often do you communicate with your grandkids and what do you talk about?
During October we are surrounded by visions of vampires – costumes and advertisements and TV shows. But have you considered that vampires are with us every day of the year in the form of energy suckers?
Basically an energy vampire is an electrical product that cannot be switched off completely unless it is unplugged. For example a cell phone charger, if left plugged in, will continue to use electricity 24 hours a day. I found a list of the biggest energy vampires which are: TVs, window air conditioners, computers, video game systems, microwave ovens, and power tools.
Granted, most products go on “standby power” but when you consider all the electrical things in your home, it adds up fast. So how can we defeat the vampires?
The surest way is to unplug anything not in use. But that can get cumbersome so an alternative is to fight the energy vampires with power strips. Plug TVs, video game systems, DVD players, etc. into a power strip. Then flip off the power switch when done. This is way easier than remembering to pull lots of plugs. Get another power strip and do the same for all the chargers for cell phones, tablets, and computers.
Enlist the kids in helping find and fight the energy vampires. Have a little fun with this and train the whole family to “flip the switch” and “pull the plug.”
How many times do you walk in a room where the lights are on but no one is there? It’s so easy to flip the switch and yes, we’re spoiled by the instant light. I wonder what it was like to light a lamp, clean a lamp, carry a lamp, when you needed light. And if the electricity goes off and we’re left in the dark, we don’t like it one bit.
Lights are a simple place to start the energy use conversation with your kids. Have the kids go through the house and count all the ceiling lights and lamps. Then put a glass jar labeled “lights” and a dish of paper clips or pennies on the kitchen counter. Every time someone turns off a light she puts a penny in the jar. Every time Mom or Dad enter an empty room and find a light left on, they take a penny out of the jar. Try this activity for a week and see how full the jar gets. This is a visible way for everyone to keep track of this habit.
Another idea is to take the kids with you to the store to look at light bulbs. Help them compare incandescent, fluorescent and LED products. The kids will be amazed at the options.If you haven’t started converting light bulbs, decide as a family where to begin. Maybe the kids will want to try new products in their rooms.
What have you done in your family to tackle the “lights left on” problem?
Did any of you ever play the “Alphabet Game” when traveling in the car with kids? It went like this. Look for any word that starts with the letter “A.” When you see it, yell out the word before anyone else can. Billboards, road signs, business signs, moving vehicles – all were eagerly searched for that letter. And things turned really interesting towards the end of the alphabet. This game got our family through many road trips. 🙂
We can use opportunities throughout a day to help our children practice reading. Following a recipe, shopping for groceries, checking the weather, following sports scores, picking out a movie to go see. Yes, reading materials are more than books. And books can be more than bound pages with a hard cover. Introduce your child to the fun of audio books. Now we have online or electronic options with literally any book at our fingertips. It’s not about which type of method is the best. It’s about getting your family to read so choose what works for you.
How have you made reading fun in your family
Let me start by sharing a childhood memory. Every Saturday morning my mother would load us four kids in the car and drive into town to the library. Then she gave us each a paper grocery sack and turned us loose. We filled our sacks with a week’s worth of reading and left the library excited about “our new books.” Later in the evenings we would all, parents and children, settle down with a book or magazine.
Now many years later I can tell you we never stopped reading. All four of us kids read daily – books and magazines and newspapers.
So what’s the point of my story? It’s really quite simple. Our parents made it a priority to expose us to the world of reading at an early age. They made sure we had access to reading materials and modeled reading themselves.
Thank you Mom and Dad for giving your kids a gift that keeps giving – hours of enjoyment with books in hand. And yes, I still go to the library on Saturday mornings to stock up on books for the week. The only difference is I carry a reusable library bag instead of the brown paper one.