Gifts of Presence more Important than Presents

Join us in welcoming a new guest blogger Barb Dunn Swanson to the Science of Parenting. Barb joined our Iowa State University Extension Human Sciences team this past summer.  She brings a wealth of extension experiences from working in the youth and families field in North Carolina and Iowa. Barb will share her thoughts on the importance of giving children and family the gift of “presence” more than the gift of “presents”.

Do you feel like the holidays seem to roll around faster and faster each year? Am I telling my age when I declare that time seems fleeting? I do enjoy the break we get during the holidays to re-connect with family and friends and to get re-energized.

Not every family has the same experience at the holidays. Some families will be out of work, creating hardships and some grief. Some may be dealing with the recent loss of a loved one, and that too creates grief. Through all of this, our care and comfort of one another can be a blessing.

One of the traditions many families share is gift giving. The holidays are the time of year we can help children and youth learn the gift of generosity. Generosity is learned through role modeling. Children and youth learn so much by observing the behaviors of those around them. The language they use, body language and self -expression is all learned. As adults, we can send strong messages through what we say, what we do and how we treat one another.

During the holiday season, instead of giving gifts that may need to purchased, wrapped and delivered, maybe we can re-think our gift giving strategy. What if we were to give a skill or a helping hand to someone we care for? Could we offer our TIME, to wrap someone’s holiday gifts? Could we offer to address Christmas cards for someone? Could we offer to go to the grocery store or shopping mall and shop alongside someone who may need extra time or attention? Could we spend a day at the senior center and visit and listen to the stories of the residents? These are the priceless gifts of attention that so many of us can give, and others will certainly appreciate.

As we at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach reflect on the holiday, we are reminded about our gift to the next generation. This video explains our efforts all year long!

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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Traditions Aren’t Just for the Holidays!

Well,  the holidays are almost behind us.  The warm and happy feelings that we get from spending time together as a family, needed end because the calendar says January.  Just the opposite is true.  It’s a wonderful time, to emphasize ordinary, everyday life traditions.

My family enjoys family meal time.  But we haven’t always!  We try to get in at least 4 family meals together each week.  Several years ago after my husband made some life changes,  we made a plan  to make eating and talking together a priority.   I used to hear lots of complaints—“we’re eating too early”, “I’m not hungry”, “I don’t like that.”, and  “I’d rather sit in front of the television”.  But, as a family,  we all agreed that it was important for us to spend time together and family meals seemed like the place to start.  There are no complaints now and certainly no regrets.

Start a family physical activity time.   After dinner walks  or bike rides are a great place to start.  Traditions can easily become habits!  May think about trying new physical activities such as bowling, gardening, sledding, ice skating, swimming, or yoga.

Maybe it’s time to arrange for special time with each child.  My kids are almost adults and this is still really important.   It is important that each child in a family gets “alone-time” with a parent on a regular basis. Volunteer or plan a community service activity as a family. Every community has unique needs that you and your family can help address such as picking up litter, volunteering at a nursing home, planting flowers for an elderly neighbor, or buying a toy for a needy child at Christmas.

What’s important is making your family important.  What better way than sharing time..at the holidays and every day of the year.

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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More than just trinkets

When I got married morornamente than twenty years ago my mother began giving me decorative ornaments. When I began to have children they too received ornaments. At first, I didn’t really know how to display them since there were so few. However, time flies when you’re having fun and suddenly this year I have a problem (according to my youngest child). I have run out of space. As I reflect on our topic this month, I couldn’t help but think about the ornaments. They may look like trinkets to most but to us they tell a story. A story of vacations, new babies, new homes, popular movies and even eventful mishaps in our lives. The ornaments have become a tradition. A giving ritual. At one point my mom asked if we still wanted to continue or if the ornaments were becoming a hassle. I confess to throwing a mini-tantrum at the though of not receiving my ornament. I have come to love looking at them and remembering with my family what the ornaments symbolize for us. I look forward to them each year and expect to continue the tradition as well.

What trinkets create traditions in your family?

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Families Need Traditions

Carrying out family traditions takes effort, but traditions and rituals can make families stronger.  Holidays are good times for families to celebrate annual rituals, like serving special foods, telling favorite stories, putting cherished decorations on display and creating holiday memories strengthens family ties. No need to wait for the holiday season though. Small customs like a weekly family meal, uniquely celebrating birthdays or life cycle celebrations like weddings or graduations are great places to start.

Most importantly, there are no right or wrong traditions. Families can use their own values, religion, history and culture to create traditions that are meaningful to them.

Join us this month as we talk about family traditions and rituals.

 

 

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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