It’s Never Too Late to Say Thank You

Mom reading a book to two children.
For many families, the last week or so may have been filled with gift giving and celebrations including good food and holiday cheer. When others spend so much time, preparing just the right holiday celebration, a hearty thank you is in order! So before the New Year rings, how about helping your children learn the skill of giving thanks to the people in your family and those friends who have made the last few days very special for all! Giving thanks has never gone out of style! In fact, good manners are reflected in the thanks that are expressed!

We often take for granted the people that mean the most to us. With out the preparation by mom and dad and extended family members, who work overtime to get the house ready, the presents purchased and wrapped, the groceries bought and delicious meals cooked, the holidays would lack that something special, they always seem to have!.
Giving thanks can take many forms. Writing a note, talking by phone, listening and sharing conversation with someone face to face! The effort we make in showing thanks will spread cheer and good will for many holidays to come!
If you are trying to teach children about writing thank you notes, here are a few helpful hints:

Greeting: Dear Aunt Karen,
Express thanks: Thank you for the new books and puzzles. I love reading.
Discuss use: I can share the puzzles when my friends come over to play.
Say it again: Thank you for remembering me with this gift.
Regards: Love, Susie

So get busy, get yourself some stationery, plain note cards or a selection of attractive postcards, and proper postage. Store all of these items somewhere easily accessible and preferably in plain sight, so you won’t forget! People like being appreciated, and if they feel you actually notice the nice things they do for you, they’re more likely to repeat their generosity.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Keep it Fiscally Healthy this Holiday Season

 Guest blogger Mary Weinand, Human Sciences Specialist, shares some important helpful ideas for fiscal health this holiday season.

parent and daughter putting coins into piggy bank

Each year at Holiday season we are flooded with articles and advice on how to “stay healthy” with all the choices we have and the opportunities to overindulge. Well, the advice we hear to maintain our physical health is useful for our fiscal health as well. This is a great time of year to take the opportunity to share healthy financial choices with our children.

Provide Healthy Choices

Discuss things your child enjoys that are free, such as playing with a friend or going to the library. Teachers report year after year that it is not the toys their students remember but the time they spend with their families. The card games and puzzles, the snowball fights and family meals are important healthy financial choices. A good book on this topic is, “Alexander who used to be Rich Last Sunday” by Judith Viorst. You can talk to your child about all the ways Alexander used his money and more importantly …was he happy with his choices.

Portion control

Many health advisors remind us to manage our portions to minimize over indulgence. This Holiday season take the opportunity to think about ways we can talk to our children about spending plans. How much money do they have and how do they plan to spend it when buying gifts for the family. Remind your children about added expenses like taxes and work with them to think about ways to stretch their dollars. Show them how to comparison shop and emphasize the gift of time. Promising to rake leaves and shovel driveways would be greatly appreciated by many family members. A good book to read together is, “Sheep in a Shop”  by Nancy Shaw. Ask your child if it was hard for the sheep to decide and how did the sheep solve the problem of not enough money?

Set Realistic Goals

When setting health goals we want the goal to be realistic and manageable and the same applies to finances. Young children may be confused about delayed gratification and buying gifts for others. It can be difficult for children to give a gift they may want themselves. Talk to your child about things that take time, plant some seeds in a cup or in a garden, and wait for them to grow. Together, take care of the seeds to help them grow. Or, sit down as a family and create a “family fun” list for winter, spring, summer, and fall. Write down all the activities that your family likes to do together. Some activities are free, like going for a walk or playing a game, and some activities cost money. A fun book to read together about realistic goals is, “Curious George  Saves His Pennies”  by Margaret and H.A. Rey

For more ideas or book suggestions about money, refer to the “Money as You Grow Bookshelf” by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Additional family finance resources available here.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Grandparents, Gifts and Giving

Children benefit from relationships with grandparents, aunts and uncles and other extended family members. These relatives express love in many ways, including gift giving which some parents say can be excessive and difficult to manage.  Finding ways to set limits and preserve relationships can be accomplished with clear, respectful, assertive communication skills. Assertive communication can work wonders in channeling well-meaning generosity for your child’s benefit.

Avoid Blame  Using “I messages” is a communication tool that reduces the chances that grandparents will become defensive, increases the likelihood of problem solving and preserves relationships.   You own your feelings and do not blame the other.  Notice the difference between these two statements. Which feels blaming?

  1. “You are always giving the children junk. What were you thinking?”
  2. “I am concerned that the children have too many toys.”

The ‘A’ statements are examples of “you messages.” “You messages” blame and provoke arguments.  The ‘B’ statement is an example of an “I message.”  “I messages” allow the speaker to claim his/her own perspective without blaming the receiver.  “I messages” often start with the words “I feel, I want, or I need . . .”

Notice the use of ‘I messages’ in this conversation opener:

“I would like to talk to you about something that is very important to me.  I value our relationship and appreciate your generosity towards my children. I am concerned that the children have too many toys. I need your help to find ways to manage the amount of things my kids receive.”

Stay Calm Tone of voice, body language and choice of words all have an impact on the outcome of a conversation.  When emotions rise in us, and in others, it is a signal that something important is being discussed.  It is a good time to find common ground through a technique called “AIKIDO” communication.  This 4-step tool helps restore harmony and begin solution seeking with overly generous grandparents and other relatives. Notice the “I messages” used in each step. Start with a deep breath to calm your body and collect your thoughts.

Step 1 Alignment – As a parent, put yourself in the grandparents’ shoes and see the situation from their perspective.

“I would want to feel special to my grandchildren.”

“I can see how fun it is for you to see joy in your grandchildren’s eyes.”

Step 2 Agree – Find common ground.

“I agree that we both love the children deeply and want the best for them.”

Step 3 Redirect – Move the conversation forward.

“I value our relationship and want to work this out together. Let’s find a time before the next holiday to talk about this.”

Step 4 Resolve – Begin the solution seeking with a suggested action step.

“I am confident we can find gift ideas for the children that will strengthen your bond with them and be manageable for our family.  Let’s make a list of ideas and see what feels right for you and me.”

These 4 steps may smooth the way for some great problem solving.

Be Clear If emotions are still running high or aggressive communication or behavior continues, allow time for everyone to calm down.  Then you can use the following technique to be clear, respectful and assertive without compromising your needs.

The DESC communication technique helps to set clear expectations and reduce defensiveness. DESC is an acronym for Describe, Express, Specify, Consequences. Pick one option from each step below or modify it to fit your situation.  Then, follow the steps in order to maximize the results. Don’t try to tackle all the issues at once.  Deliver your “speech” on one issue as if you are giving a report. Use an even tone of voice, calm facial expression, and be patiently persistent. Writing out what you want to say or practicing with a trusted friend before you talk to the grandparent can be helpful.

Step 1 – Describe the situation, stating your observations using ‘I messages’:

“I know you love my kids and want them to see you as their special (grandmother/aunt).  I noticed that the gifts the children received for the holiday are (broken, ignored, not appropriate for their age/abilities, too many for our home).”

Step 2 – Express your feelings:

“I am concerned that (pick one of the following):

  • The toys go the landfill quickly.
  • The children are overwhelmed and will not be able to use/appreciate these gifts.
  • The child is not old enough yet.
  • We do not have space to store/play with them.”

OR

“I want my children to learn the value of (education, saving, working toward what they need, appreciating what they have, family relationships, etc.)”

Step 3 – Specify your needs:

“For future gift giving, I want the children to receive more gifts of time/experience/savings like:

  • special activity with the child
  • family pass to zoo/pool/park/museum
  • dance/music lessons, camp registration
  • money (investment for college, savings bond, etc.)
  • story-telling about your childhood”
  • Choose more ideas at ReclaimYourHolidays.org

OR

“I prefer that the children receive tangible gifts such as:

  • Practical items such as clothing, grocery/farmer’s market cards/coupons
  • Needs or wants from a list created by the child
  • Gifts that can stay at Grandma’s house to be enjoyed at sleep-overs, etc.
  • Money (1/3 for saving, 1/3 for charity, 1/3 for spending)
  • Open-ended toys that encourage thinking, imagination, movement. (See extension.iastate.edu for “Understanding Children; Toys” for age-appropriate toys.)
  • A family heirloom and story.”

Step 4 – Consequences result when what is specified (in step 3 above) occurs or does NOT occur.

“When the children receive gifts of time/experience/savings, then they:

  • Create a special bond with you.
  • Enjoy the gift and are not overwhelmed.
  • Learn important values of (education, saving, work, appreciation, family relationships, etc.)
  • Will remember your generosity when they get older (you will provide a legacy).”

OR

“When the children receive too many toys or things they cannot use, I will return or donate them.”

If at first you don’t succeed at getting your family’s needs met around gift giving practices, keep trying to communicate as positively as possible.  Your child needs her extended family for support throughout her lifetime.  Avoid communication that feels blaming and destroys relationships. Commit to assertive communication to preserve relationships and find positive solutions.

 

References:

Anthony Bower, Sharon. The Assertive Advantage, A Guide to Healthy and Positive Communications.  National Press Publications, 1994.

Bodnar, Janet. Raising Money Smart Kids: What They Need to Know

about Money and How to Tell Them. Kaplan Publishing, 2005.

Rosenberg, Marshall B. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Chicago: Puddledancer Press, 2003. See also www.nonviolentcommunication.com.

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Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

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Gratitude Diaries

Little girl looking at her mother
Little girl looking at her mother

I’m reading the Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan and loved the chapter on Raising Grateful Kids.  Her stories about UN-grateful preteens and young adults who resented the sense of obligation that comes with “thanking” their parents made me think about how we approach gratitude with our kids.  Do we demand that they be grateful for all we do for them?

 

Modeling appreciation is the best way to teach gratitude.  How often does our family hear us express gratitude for our job or coworkers? For the checker at the grocery store? For access to safe, nutritious food? For the privilege of transportation to get where we need and want to go? When was the last time your kids heard YOU say thanks to their other parent for something that just gets done at home? Have your kids seen YOU handwrite a thank you note to a friend for taking time to have lunch together? or bringing in the garbage cans that blew down the street?  Appreciating the small things keeps us from taking things for granted. Learn more ways to raise grateful kids in this video Teach your kids the gift of giving.

My granddaughter signs ‘Thank you’ to her Papa when he gets her a drink of water.  My heart swells when I see her learn this simple act of gratitude.  It starts early and extends throughout our life.  I started using the Five Minute Gratitude Journal to keep me focused on looking on the bright side of life.

Thank someone this week for who they are, or what they did, or that they are in your life. . .  and tell us what happened to YOUR heart. To their attitude. To the relationship.

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Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

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