Category: Family Culture

Family Mission Statements ROCK – Part 2

 

For many of you, developing a family mission statement may have been on your “to-do” list for a long time, but you have never gotten around to it. Or, maybe the idea is new and a bit daunting.

Here are some sabotaging beliefs and myths that real people have said about mission statement development.

1. “My children are too young to get involved yet.” Or, as one mom put it, “I don’t want my four-year-old influencing our mission statement.”

Even though children might not be able to articulate it, it matters a lot how their family “feels” to them. The family is a child’s world, and they can, even at very young ages, make valuable contributions to the discussion of what matters to the family.

If children are too young to participate, it’s never too early to begin consciously creating the culture of your home through the development of a family mission statement. Their contribution might merely be participating in the daily reciting of the mission statement.

In our home, we have a disabled, non-verbal four-year-old, a very busy two-year-old, and a five-month-old. Our children were too young to have participated in the actual development of our family mission statement. But they very actively participate in the daily reciting of our mission statement. Our two-year-old loves to say the first line, “The Joyful Palmers are a team! Yeah!” Our disabled daughter engages with a huge smile, and the five-month-old soaks in the feeling of it all.

When children are a little older, they can contribute by drawing their ideas of what matters to the family and how they would like the family to feel.

2. My children are too old. I don’t think my children would accept it.

Older children may very well reject something that might challenge the current family status quo or come down from the “powers that be.” Working with older children requires that we pay special attention to “doing the dance” of inspiring.

Primarily, a family mission statement should never come down as an edict from parents. No matter how fabulous your mission statement might sound, it must be created as a family to have any real investment by everybody.

Consider engaging your older youth and young adults in a way that gives an air of anticipation and excitement to the development of this statement. Be prepared to invest in this process. For example, consider taking a unique family retreat, or maybe your children would respond with some private, preparatory, one-on-one talking.

Never create it yourself and then announce it to the family as the new thing. Make it fun; involve food and activities that your family enjoys.

3. I’m not creative enough.

Mission statements don’t require creativity; they require truth.

4. A mission statement must be short; we can’t fit all that’s important to us in a brief statement.

Here’s an example of a family mission statement that is not short.

Habits of Our Home
We obey the Lord Jesus Christ.
We love, honor, and pray for each other.
We tell the truth.
We consider one another’s interests ahead of our own.
We do not hurt each other with unkind words or deeds.
We speak quietly and respectfully with one another.
When someone is sorry, we forgive him.
When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.
When someone is sad, we comfort him.
When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.
When we have something beautiful to share, we share it.
We take good care of everything God has given us.
We do not create unnecessary work for others.
When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.
When we open something, we close it.
When we turn something on, we turn it off.
When we don’t know what to do, we ask.
When we take something out, we put it away.
When we make a mess, we clean it up.
We arrive on time.
We do what we say.
We finish what we start.
We say please and thank you.
When we go out, we act as if we are in this house.
When necessary, we accept discipline and instruction.

5. A mission statement needs to be long.

Here is an example of a short and sweet family mission statement.

Our Family Mission
To encourage others to become like Christ through loving relationships,
healthy lifestyles, and stimulating experiences.

6. I’m not sure we need a family mission statement. We seem to be doing just fine without one.

That’s a fair evaluation if “just fine” is your standard.

Assignment #2: What roadblocks, if any, have been keeping your family from creating your family mission statement? Are these roadblocks real or excuses? If they are real, write them down. Now begin considering solutions to these roadblocks. If you need help, reach out to your spouse or a friend to help you start seeing opportunities and solutions.

You can access Part 1 and Assignment 1 HERE. 

Do you have a Family Mission Statement? We would love to know how you did it. Please comment. Do you have a friend who needs this?

Choose to See Beauty!

Recently I read 

a post by an old and dear friend. It was beautiful and sad. There are so many areas where we, as women and mothers, struggle. We struggle because we think we aren’t doing a good enough job as a parent. We strive because we feel we aren’t filling our mission; we don’t have enough education or aren’t attractive enough.

Listen to the words of Laurisa Paul, a midwife:
I was sitting beside the pool the other day, and the most beautiful woman caught my attention. There she stood, in her bathing suit, resting a tiny baby in her arms. The baby perched contentedly on the protruding belly that had just created its life—beauty– in the deepest, holiest way that I’ve ever seen. I wanted to stare forever and kept this woman in my heart for days. This scene caused serious reflection for me.

We all agree that baby girls are beautiful and perfect in every way. This adoration continues as we grow, through every stage of our changing body… but then we reach early adulthood, and what happens? Quite suddenly, we halt the adoration of the continued growth and change and strive— for the rest of our lives— to achieve the young, thin, pre-maternal body.

I could not stop thinking about how fundamentally CRAZY we are as a society! How crazy we are to miss the breathtaking beauty of a postpartum body- with stretched-out skin and worn-out breasts, and sleepy, baggy eyes. The 45-year-old body, feeling tired of life’s marathon, and yet, still hopeful of the possibilities ahead. How absolutely crazy we are to overlook the beauty of a 60-year-old body! Its edges softened by growth, innumerable acts of service and courage held in its hips and thighs. And what about the body of a 75-year-old? New pains now reveal the many sacrifices and stories written along the way. I visualize the skin that hangs low from my 92-year-old grandmother’s face, her wrinkles marking the sage wisdom held in her eyes, and I ask…HOW IS THAT NOT ABSOLUTELY STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL?!?

It is pure insanity that we overlook ALL of it– all of the beauty that is resplendent in every stage of growth in a woman’s life– simply trying to reach for one very narrow ideal. It is shocking how irrational it is. And yet, we all go on doing it.

Her words went straight to my heart because of an experience I had just a few months ago.

I was sitting in church with my family. The meeting ended; I placed my hand on the back of the chair in front of me, ready to stand. I’m not sure why what happened next did, but it stopped me in mid-stand. I realized how beautiful my hand was. I was shocked by the sight and the feelings that came with it. I asked my granddaughter to take a photo. I wanted to remember the gift I had just received.

I know that not everyone would think my hand is beautiful because it’s the hand of a 70-year-old woman. The skin is looser than when I was young. There are age spots; the proverbial veins are showing. I didn’t see any of that.

I saw babies diapered. Children hugged. Hundreds of thousands of dishes washed. Mountains of laundry folded. I saw hundreds of hours of service rendered to friends, neighbors, and community. I saw articles written and paintings completed. I saw phone numbers dialed to cheer up a friend or counsel someone in need.

I saw love!

I don’t know how this happened in a split second, but I like to think that it was God showing me how much I matter in the world.

I posted the above to Facebook, and I was shocked at the response I received. There were over 40 comments. It was repeatedly shared. A few hundred people responded in some way. Why the considerable outpouring? I have thought about that. I am convinced that it’s because we are all searching for our worth.

As women and mothers, we need to embrace the journey. We need to embrace the difficulty, the challenges, and the learning. We need to embrace the growth and all that comes with it. We need to know that what we do as women matter more than how we look. Recognizing our value, our worth is a choice. Let’s choose to give ourselves a break as we grow and learn, as we give birth, serve, and age. Let’s choose to see the beauty in our hands, our bodies, and our hearts. Let’s choose to see ourselves as beautiful!

Thank you for sharing this article : ) 

Family Mission Statements Rock!

 

Sometimes, as a parent, we’re handed opportunities for self-evaluation on a silver platter. I was given such a dish the other day when I caught my two-year-old son marching around the living room chanting, “Stop that! Now I have to take that away. Stop that! Now I have to take that away.” Good grief! I’m happy to contrast that little ditty with something he was muttering in my ear a few nights ago as I was putting him to sleep. “Daddy loves you; daddy loves you; daddy loves you.”

It’s a bit overwhelming to think about how innocent my son is in his learning, how he soaks up everything that happens around him. In those two little exchanges, my son confirmed to me how important it is that I do not take the obligation lightly, I have as a parent to lay a right and solid foundation for him to build the rest of his life on.

It’s important to remember that children learn more by what we are and the environment and feelings that surround them than through what we are trying to teach through activities. If this is true, ask yourself, “how do we, as a family, consciously develop who we are and the environment and feelings that make up our home? What are we doing to consciously articulate the development of our family?”

A family mission statement is this articulation.

A family mission statement becomes part of our family cannon and the inspiration of our family culture. In other words, it’s what helps us consciously design the environment and feelings in our home that directly influence the development of our children. A Family Mission Statement breathes life into or inspires our family culture.

There is another essential element that a family mission statement brings to the table. I’ve interviewed several families who said, “I’m not sure how much we need a mission statement. It seems that the culture of our family is pretty good. We don’t have a formal, articulated mission statement, but we talk about the things that might be in a statement a lot.”

This is a model that works for many families. However, consider the specific model you’re using to train your children in developing, managing, and leading their own families.

For these parents I interviewed, they were clear on the things they were teaching regularly to their children, which were influencing their family culture. But, are they also teaching their children how to do that in their own homes? Are their children even aware that there is a model to follow? Are they aware of the idea of culture, it’s purposeful creation, and the impact it has on the family?

A Family Mission Statement is not only an articulation of your family’s development; it’s also a specific model of training for good family development, management, and leadership.

Through the course of the next few blog posts, I’ll be taking you through several exercises to help your family create your own inspiring family mission statement.

Assignment #1: Begin by evaluating your family’s current culture. Consider the daily environment and feelings in your home. Talk to your spouse about it. Are your family environment, feelings, and culture such that they will inspire your children’s growth and character? Now, try a brainstorming exercise by asking yourself: what are the core things I want my child to do or know? Put your list somewhere so that you can add to it when things come to your mind.

A Family Mission Statement Matters. Please share with those you care about. 

The Afternoon Occupation Jar – BRILLIANT!

A friend has been talking with me about her efforts to organize her family and teach her sons. We’ve had conversations, each ending with something to ponder. The goal is to come up with an experiment.

Something weighing heavily on her mind was how to find the time to expose her sons to different hobbies and occupations. She is a mom who works full time from home, helping a small hospital. Since the pandemic, her workload has increased from 30 hours a week to sometimes 80. It won’t be forever, but for now, it is a load.

Trying to find the time to engage with her boys isn’t the only reason she’s concerned about showing them the world of possibilities. She is a true-crime buff. She told me that she has seen a pattern emerge over the years. Many of these crimes happen in small towns and other out of the way places. The perpetrators all say they were bored and didn’t have anything to do, and they were drinking. WHAT!

No Matter Where You Live There Are Things to Learn and Do

That is the question she has been asking herself. No matter where you live, there are things to learn and do – go fishing, learn the names of trees and plants, learn to roller skate, collect rocks and minerals, start a group for kids to teach them a skill, read to others in a nursing home, etc.

Even in small towns, the list could be endless. So, what is the problem? My friend has concluded, after watching these shows for years, that often the perpetrators don’t know they have options, they didn’t learn to explore possibilities.

One of the things she wants to do as a parent is to expose her sons to lots of new and exciting things. How to consistently do that is the problem. We talked about many options, and she pondered them, and yes, came up with an experiment. The system she developed was brilliant, and it may be just what you need too.

Afternoon Occupations

She got a jar, painted it, and labeled it ‘Afternoon Occupations.’ It’s filled with popsicle sticks that mom marked with activities that the boys can do themselves. That is important because these afternoon occupations take place while she’s working.

Here is how it works. The boys choose a stick and engage in the activity. They only get to choose one stick, and then they must give it a good college try, even if they think they don’t like it. After a good attempt, they are free to play with something else that they want. The goal is to help them learn how to fill and manage their time with good things and do it independently.

Mom has put things the boys will need on two shelves of a bookcase. If it isn’t there, then it is in a place the boys can access. Legos are on the Lego table, and the puzzles have a home.

Sample Occupations

Here are some of the items written on the sticks –
• Simple crafts
• Music
• Playdough
• Make a card
• Water play
• Audiobook
• Stretching and other simple exercises
• Draw on the sidewalk
• Make an obstacle course
• Watercolors
• Origami
• Puzzles

As the days go by, she plans to pay attention to which sticks are winners and which aren’t as successful. She will remove the unsuccessful activities and add new sticks as she comes up with new ideas. She is figuring out what they genuinely do themselves and what will take more help. It is a process of winnowing out.

When you’re busy, it isn’t always enough to say, “Go play.” Giving kids a jumping-off point can be immensely helpful. And remember, the goal is not to keep the kids out of your hair while you do whatever your project or work is, it’s to help them learn to fill and manage their time independently.

You never know when one of the sticks could become a hobby that they can do alone for an hour or two on the weekend!

This is a fun one. Why not share? : )

Stress and Love Can’t Co-exist

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about connecting daily with children. I mentioned that random touch was one of the most powerful practices I knew for connecting multiple times a day.

She laughed and said, “I come from an Italian family. We’re snugglers and kissers. When I read about random touch in your book, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got this covered!’”

As we continued our conversation, she mentioned she found it hard to touch her kids when she was involved in her business. She’s a work at home mom and often feels stretched and overly busy. There were other times too, when she wasn’t reaching out.

Here is where I stepped back into the conversation

I want to share with you what I shared with her.

I love random touch! It’s an effective tool for connecting in astounding ways with children. Random touch helps reduce the need for discipline, opens pathways to mini conversations, melts stony hearts, and bonds children to parents. Reaching out and touching your kids is practically magic for connecting. BUT there’s an equal, if not even more important reason, to do it. It’s for you!

Random touch doesn’t just help your kids know they matter. It’s also a prescription for stress reduction in your own life. Kids are like batteries. They’re filled with energy and light. The younger the child, the truer this is. When I’m stressed, I work at remembering to stop and grab my grandchild in a big hug as I say, “I love you!”

If you’re down, you can get up by accessing your child’s energy. They’re up more often and are far more energetic than you are. It’s a gift of being young.

Sharon Silver has expressed this perfectly: “Focusing on love and creating a connection causes unseen properties to magically eat up stress. It’s as if stress and love can’t exist in the same space. When a stressed-out parent takes a few minutes to sit and lovingly reconnect to their child, heart to heart, it’s like a key has been inserted and the stress begins to dissolve”. (Silver, “4 Minute Way to De-Stress”).

A wonderful story and example!

After I shared this information with my friend, she told me this story. “One day, when I was helping one of my boys with his math, I felt irritated because he was dawdling. Then I touched the back of his neck and ruffled his hair. I felt less irritated. My energy changed.”

Touching your child makes a significant connection that strengthens your relationship. But it also helps you ground yourself. It helps you change your energy dips from negative to positive.

Share and comment. I love hearing what you have to say. : ) 

5 Tips To Put Family First in a World of Distractions

I saw an insurance commercial in which the adults (portrayed by kids) were being treated like children by the insurance company. They felt helpless, undervalued, and frustrated. When I saw this commercial, I, like most of you, could relate to those feelings. At the end of the commercial, a rival insurance company helped a woman (portrayed by a child) with her needs. She stood there smiling, feeling good.

Then I had a second thought. Why would they use children to illustrate what all of us have felt as adults? It’s because this IS how children are frequently treated. They are not seen, heard. They don’t feel they matter.

What Does Being on the List Look Like

Let me give you an example of what it looks like when we treat our children in a way that leaves them feeling like the adults in this commercial, helpless, undervalued and frustrated.

One day I was sewing, and the project had a deadline. I’m pretty good but sewing would be on the bottom  of my relaxing and fun things to-do list. I was feeling some pressure. My 3-year-old daughter, Marie, kept coming into the sewing room and interrupting me. This and the sewing were wearing on my nerves. I was ready to spank her. After all, she was bugging me, and she could see perfectly well that I was busy! I decided if she interrupted me again, I was going to swat her.

Of course, you know what happened. She came in again and I was ready to carry out my intention. Then I had a thought, “Why not hug her instead!” It wasn’t my thought! Remember, I had a firm intention to swat her. It took me by such surprise that I STOPPED what I was doing.

I turned my chair away from the sewing machine and I looked at my daughter. I picked her up and I hugged her tight. I hugged her for 15-20 seconds. I said, “Marie I LOVE you!” Then I put her down and off she went as happy as a clam.

She didn’t come back. Why! Think about that insurance commercial I described and it will be clear. When they were being ignored the people in the commercial were frustrated and feeling undervalued. The woman at the end of the commercial was smiling and feeling good because someone cared. She was on the list.  She felt valued.

This is what happened to Marie. All she wanted was to be on the list, to be valued. Our children want to be on our list, and in our busy lives we sometimes erase them off. Oh, we cook meals, clean and maintain order and manage our family, but our children and our relationship with them are not on the list. We often don’t make time to let them know that we see them, hear them, and that they matter.

5 tips to help you let your kids know they have a place on your list.

1. Take a hard look at your calendar – We all have good things on our calendar. However, are there so many goods that there isn’t room for the best – time with our children? Can you pare down the classes, lessons, team activities, and community and church responsibilities? Time at home matters to kids. Ask yourself, “What happens if I/we don’t do this?” If you’re doing a task out of guilt or habit, take it off your calendar. Figure out what your priorities are and pursue those. Something must give.

2. Involve the kids – I know, I know, it’s simply easier, faster, and more efficient to do things by yourself. But there are advantages to including your children a few times a week. Gardening together, folding laundry as a group, and tidying up the yard as a unit are ways to kill two birds with one stone. If you make it fun it won’t seem like work, it will seem like a family activity.

3. Turn off your digital devices, ditch technology – just for a while. Have technology-free moments every day. For example, have a TV, computer or no phone hour just before bed or while eating dinner. When you’re willing to let go of technology for even short amounts of time, you’ll be surprised at how much time you can open up for the family.

4. Make a date with your family and then keep it. When things are planned, they tend to happen. When they aren’t the world crowds in, and they get put off. If you have a family evening once a week then consider that sacred time. If you decide to have a game night, don’t let anything else interfere. If you plan to walk one evening a week, make sure it happens. It doesn’t have to cost money, take a lot of time or preparation but you do need to be consistent. That will go a long way to saying, “You are on my list.”

5. Realize you won’t get everything done. A to-do list is unending. It will never get done. Laundry is forever, so is cleaning and cooking. The yard always needs to be mowed and snow must be shoveled. So, lighten up a bit. Let some things go, short term, and make space for your family. 

Please share 

What Is The Best Gift?

When we moved to Laurel, Montana over 3 decades ago it was a jolt. We had lots of little kids and we didn’t know anyone. We had no family in Montana and no one we knew had ever lived there.

The second week in our new town we got a visit from an older woman who was part of the religious community we would be joining. We hadn’t even been able to attend yet. To our knowledge, very few people knew we had moved to town. But here on my doorstep was Millie Giovetti, a woman who was destined to become our dear friend. In her hands, she held two homemade pies. Not one, two! She had taken the time to find out a bit about this new family who had moved into her neighborhood and church. She knew that there were seven of us. She understood that two pies would definitely be better than one. I had felt overwhelmed with this move and her gesture of kindness was amazing to me. But even more, was the message it sent –   I see you; I hear you; you matter to me.

While we lived in this small town, I found a best friend. I hadn’t had many of those in my lifetime, so it was a wonderful gift. Linda Brannon, like Millie, took the time to find out about me and my family, she paid attention. We were more than just a name on a church roll or people who lived down the street.

Every year at Christmas Linda made hundreds of cookies that she gave to friends and family. She would wrap them beautifully in one and two dozen. But every December would find her on my doorstep with a platter of cookies. Not one or two dozen but at least 8 dozen to bring joy to our family which had swelled to nine. It wasn’t the cookies that meant so much to me but the message they sent – I see you; I hear you; you matter to me.

This is the message our children need and want to hear from us – I see you; I hear you; you matter to me.

In Highlights magazine’s annual State of the Kid Survey, a nationally representative sample of 6- to 12-year-olds were asked, “Are your parents ever distracted when you’re trying to talk to them?” Sixty-two percent of children said yes (Highlights, 2014). That’s a lot of kids feeling as if they might not matter.

Take the time today to let your children know that you see them; that you hear them; and that they matter to you.

• STOP what you’re doing. Put your cell phone down, turn away from the computer, turn off the vacuum
• Get on their level. Kneel if you need to.
• Look them in the eye.
• Respond to what your child is feeling, not only what they’re saying.
• Listen with patience and interest.

This doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Give them 3-5 minutes. If they need more time and you need to do something else, tell them honestly. Set a time to get back with them and then do it.

Kids measure love primarily by our attentiveness to them. When you stop what you’re doing to listen to what they want to share, look at a picture they made, or touch them with intention, it says I see you; I hear you; you matter to me. Knowing that they matter is the best gift we give to our kids.  

I appreciate it when you share. Thank you!

You Can’t Know Until You Get There

Sometimes parenting seems like a thankless job. Many things must be done. Often, it seems, those we serve aren’t aware of, resent, or push away our efforts. I’ve learned that you really can’t know until you get there. That’s the problem in a nutshell. Our children don’t deliberately set out to be ignorant of the blessings, help, and support we give them. But it can seem like it because we expect them to see through our eyes and our experience. But they can’t because you can’t know until you get there.

I remember a conversation with a teen of ours who was struggling. She couldn’t understand why we were so worried and up in arms. She was fine! Then she had a child and that child became a teen. Then my child understood and talked to me about all we had tried to do for her and how grateful she was. You can’t know until you get there.

I recall dragging my kids to prayer in our bedroom each morning. Oh, my goodness, the fussing, snoring, and resentment. Later, much later, one of those same bleary-eyed kids told me that those prayerful moments had meant so much later when she was away from home, alone, and in trouble. She said the memory and practice was a lifeline. It gave her the courage to seek divine help which changed her life. You can’t know till you get there.

As a mother of seven, meals were HUGE! I made meals that were attractive and varied. They took time to make and then people didn’t want to eat what was served. Getting the response I got, year after year, was exasperating. Recently, one of my daughters said, “Mom, I don’t know how you did it. You made such great meals. I struggle every day to figure out what to cook and then to get it done.” She has finally gotten there. She appreciates my efforts, but it came over 2 decades after the fact. You can’t know till you get there.

A few years ago, one of my sons in his forties, embarked on a challenging educational path. He would call home looking for support, someone who would tell him how wonderful he was and that he could do it. This is the same son who resented our efforts to guide him along an easier path when he was a teen. But here, a few decades later, he was reaching out for that very thing. It mattered to him and he knew the value. You can’t know till you get there.

There isn’t a timeline for getting there. Just this last week I was talking to a friend who’s an expert knitter. She’s in her 80’s and has a daughter in her 60’s. She was showing me a sweater that she’d just finished that you could have bought in any high-end store. It was gorgeous! She said that her next project was a sweater for her daughter. I replied that her daughter was lucky to have a mom who could knit a sweater that would cost a few hundred dollars. She replied, “I don’t think she knows or feels lucky.” There it is again. You can’t know till you get there. One of these days the mother who knits will pass away and then her daughter will miss the sweaters and she’ll know how lucky she was all those years.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t teach our children to appreciate their blessing. We should. However, sometimes you’ll feel invisible and unappreciated. When that happens remember they’ll understand and be grateful when they get there. This is a useful practice because just knowing that it takes time to get there helps as we do what must be done for those we love. Knowing that they will eventually get there and that it will matter to them then, makes Now better.

A Casserole is NOT Romance

Time and Attention are Rare

and Valuable Gifts

Don and I have been married for almost 50 years. One day I mentioned that I thought we needed a little romance. We’ve had plenty of romance in our marriage, just not lately.

A few days later Don spent a couple of hours in the kitchen making a terrific casserole for lunch. He set the table and we ate together. It was nice and we had a fine conversation. We both enjoyed it. As we were finishing, he looked at me and said, “This is how I’m romancing you.” Hmmm.

Later romance came up again. Don said, “Gee, honey, I made you a casserole.”

“Don, a casserole is not romance. It’s nice, it’s kind and it’s serving but it isn’t romance. I think you’ve been married too long and need to look romance up in the dictionary.”

“Then I don’t get any points for romance, right.”

“Right, no points.”

I wasn’t getting what I needed, and Don was disappointed because he took two hours and did something nice for me and got no points for romance.

Parents find themselves in this same situation, not getting what they feel are their well-deserved points. Didn’t you cook and serve a wonderful meal? Didn’t you take your kids across town to their ballet lessons and don’t you do that every week. Didn’t you wash the clothes and clean the house. Didn’t you sit with the whole family while they watched Benji?

Because you’ve invested so much time you equate that with being present with your children, just like Don thought investing time equated to romance. But doing the work of parenting doesn’t equate to being present.

An Example of Presence

I have a friend who had nine children, all under 11, living with her. One day she was distracted, interrupted and overly busy. As the day wore on the children began fighting, were noisy, and making messes. Finally, just before dinner, she stopped what she was doing, and they spent some time together. She listened to them, read to them, engaged with them, and had fun with them. It wasn’t a great amount of time, only about 30 minutes. Nevertheless, she said it made a difference in the rest of the evening. They calmed down. Things were more peaceful. They enjoyed eating together and being with each other.

Being present is giving our children our whole attention, even if only for a short time. This’s what children need and want.

And by the way, that is what is ultimately needed in most relationships. So, save yourself some time and tune in, really tune in, if only for short amounts of time. It will get you points. : )

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Help Kids Give Christmas from the Heart

Kids LOVE making Christmas gifts. Helping them can seem overwhelming during this very busy season. However, with a bit of thought and time, you can help your children give gifts from the heart.

When I had two children left at home, ages five and eleven, we decided to make Christmas gifts. We had set some guidelines:

 

  • They had to be usable and worth giving
  • They couldn’t cost a lot of money
  • The child had to be able to make it with minimal help

This was before every home had a computer! What I had instead was a butter-colored, six drawer file cabinet which was filled with things I had collected over a lifetime of teaching children. We searched through files marked Christmas, gifts, sewing, patterns, and so forth until we found the perfect items.

My son, who was eleven, chose to make footstools for his grandparents and dad. I took him to the lumber yard, and he asked scraps and they gave them to him. I took him to the local upholstery shop, and he asked for scraps which they gave to him. In other words, I let my children choose the gifts, helped them gather the supplies for the gifts and then assisted when they needed me in making the gifts. But these gifts really did come from them.

The following ideas are simple, inexpensive and your children will need minimal help. But the satisfaction of giving a gift from the heart will be priceless.

Gifts Kids Can Make for Christmas

1. Make a book for a toddler. Get a small photo album and have your older child print pictures from the Internet or they can draw simple objects. Glue the picture to a piece of heavy paper or poster board which has been cut to fit. Label the item, write a short sentence or paragraph for a story.
2. Write a story for a parent or grandparent. Buy a small notebook with unlined paper or put some plain paper into a folder. Have your child write a story and then illustrate it. If your child is new to writing, you can write their story for them on the pages they have illustrated. Part of the fun with younger children is helping them come up with a story while you write. This can make for wonderfully funny and warm moments together. My Kate, when she was small, wrote two stories that I still have. One was called The Golden Tear and was a fantasy. The other was called “Glass Is Not Cement” a hilarious story of a real experience that she had. (She used an aquarium for a step stool!)
3. Another great gift idea that an older child can make is a Quiet Book. We have made these, and they are just plain fun. This also works well as a project for a whole family. Each member of the family makes one page for the book. Here is a wonderful site that has some darling free templates.
4. Bookmarks. Over the years we have made many, many bookmarks. If you google bookmarks for kids to make and hit images, you will find more ideas than you can shake a stick at! Here is one easy idea.
5. Decorated Wooden Spoon. Here is a gift that I saw on TJEDMUSE, suggested by Debbie. I thought it was a wonderful idea. When I was young, about 11 or 12, I got a wood-burning kit for Christmas and I loved it. Choose a wooden kitchen implement such as a spoon or rolling pin. Use the wood burner to inscribe an inspirational word or picture. If you choose something like a spoon you can turn it into a great wall decoration by adding ribbon and silk flowers to the handle and then hot gluing a hanger on the back of the handle.

6. One year we made corn/rice warmers for our friends. I still have mine. I store it under the head of my bed for cold nights. I just pop it into the microwave for a minute and voila warmth. Because I had children making these, they were very simple. We cut squares from flannel about 9X9. We sewed up three and ½ sides filled them with feed corn which I bought. Rice works just as well. Then we hand sewed the opening shut. I was able to teach my kids how to use the sewing machine and how to sew with a needle and thread. Just a note – When I was teaching my 5-year-old to use the sewing machine I stood behind her and ran the pedal with my foot. I helped her push the material through the feed dog and keep it straight. It worked well and as far as she was concerned, she had done the sewing!


7. Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies. I know, I know, everyone gets cookied to death at Christmas. However, my children loved making them. This is a whole afternoon project or two short afternoons. Kids make the cookie dough, roll it out, bake the cookies and then decorate them. The recipe that I am giving you is very old and uses far more flour than sugar, so they are perfect for frosting. When kids are frosting cookies, it is a messy business and never looks beautiful the way you would do it. But please, don’t help them too much or fix their cookies. What we like to do is let the cookies sit for a couple of hours uncovered so the frosting crusts up a bit. Then we put them in freezer bags and write “A Christmas Gift for New Year’s Eve – please freeze” on the bag. Add a bow and maybe a couple of hot chocolate packets. What a great gift!

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
2 c sugar 7 c flour
1 c shortening ½ tsp salt
2 eggs 1 tsp soda
1 tsp vanilla ½ c evaporated milk (plain milk works but canned makes the flavor so yummy!)

Cream the sugar and shortening. Add eggs, vanilla, salt, and soda. Mix well. Add flour and milk alternately. I always end up mixing with my hands. It works so much better! The dough must be just stiff enough to roll out and handle nicely. Flour your table before you roll it out. It also helps to dip your cutter into the flour before cutting the dough. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8-10 minutes. The longer baked, the crisper, the shorter baked, softer.

Merry Christmas and

happy gift making. : )

By the way, if you love candy, frosting and graham crackers why not tackle a village of small gingerbread houses. It is a fabulous family activity? It’s fun and the way I help kids do it, it’s as easy as pie!! Sounds too hard? Try making a passel of old fashioned gingerbread men. They are delicious and simple.

Why not share this with someone

you care about. : )