Posts Tagged ‘family bonding’

Yours, Mine, and Ours: New Traditions for Stepfamilies

Friday, December 19th, 2008

This article comes from the book The Joy of Family Traditions by Jennifer Trainer Thompson.

Christmas can be especially hard for stepchildren. Not only do kids stand to lose the traditions they shared with their biological families, they may be shuffling between two households, neither of which necessarily feels like a safe, secure place they can call home. Throw in a potential income disparity between families, new stepsiblings, and possibly receiving modest gifts themselves while stepbrothers and stepsisters are showered with expensive gadgets from an absent parent-and you’ve got the makings for an emotional minefield. Blended families need new traditions to smooth the way:

  • Make Christmas a season, not a day. If you focus traditions on that single twenty-four-hour period, and your children only see you every other year on Christmas Day, they’ll feel they’re missing something on the years they’re with your ex. Create new traditions that aren’t date specific such as picking out the tree, making wreaths, and shopping together.
  • If you are with stepchildren on Christmas Day, don’t push all your traditions on them at once; maybe this year you shouldn’t visit your mother on Christmas morning-save that for a vacation day later in the week. Start traditions that will make new family members feel special-which may mean foregoing some favorite activities in favor of making time for new ones.
  • Try not to force two celebrations on Christmas Day-”We’ll be home in the morning, at noon you’ll go to your father’s house, then we’ll pick you up at 4 P.M., with a quick stop for eggnog at Grandma Jane’s on the way to Uncle Bill and Aunt Barbara’s for their annual Christmas Day open house, then we’ll end up at your Grandpa Jack’s for supper because I know you wouldn’t want to miss that.”-unless of course you want the children’s enduring holiday memory to be that of sitting in a car, racing against the clock.
  • Be flexible. Be creative. Be generous. Ask them what they want to do to celebrate. Maybe they’d like to go ice skating on Christmas Eve or watch a holiday movie in the afternoon. Choose holiday activities that everyone can do together: skating, sledding, baking cookies. But don’t be afraid to experiment with some separate activities that, while open to all the kids, don’t require everyone to participate.

The Gift of Self

Monday, December 15th, 2008

When it is time for gift-giving on any occasion, consider making and giving coupons to your children. The sky is the limit. “This coupon good for one breakfast out with Dad.” “This coupon good for staying up late on one weekend night.” “This coupon good for one bike-riding afternoon with Mom.” What is so wonderful about coupons is that they can so easily translate into time spent together with loved ones, rather than just another thing to accumulate. We started this tradition early in our family and it wasn’t too long before we parents started getting lovingly scrawled coupons from the children. It is a sweet way to teach that gifts of self are often so much more meaningful and fun than gifts that originate in the wallet.

Never Underestimate the Value of a Good Hello

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

I learned a fair amount about parenting from my “firstborn,” a larger-than-life golden retriever. Perhaps the most important lesson she taught me was to never underestimate the value of a good hello. Every day after work, I would come home to a whirling dervish of a dog. I soon learned that how I handled those first few moments of togetherness could make or break the quality of my (our!) evening.

A quick ruffling of her head with a “Hey there, Sandra McJean!” meant I’d be in for a long evening of “Stop chewing on the armoire!” and “Why are you barking?!” On the other hand, if I gave Sandy 10 minutes of undivided attention upon my arrival, it made all the difference. Given a little play time, some serious petting, and encouraging words, she’d be good to go for the rest of the night. When I became mother to my first daughter, I recognized the drill! Sure enough, the tone for an entire evening had a lot to do with how those first few minutes were managed. Did my daughter feel seen and heard-truly welcomed and full of my love for her, or did she feel overlooked and insignificant, leaving her empty and wanting more, more, MORE!? (more…)

“Are We There Yet?”

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

A few years back, when our boys were 8 and 11, we took a vacation to Yosemite. We stayed at a place more than a few minutes outside the park (read: long car ride!). After several days of driving too long and hearing “Are we there yet?” too many times, we decided to explore closer to our hotel. We’d heard of a nice hiking trail just a few minutes away and set out one morning.

Walking around a corner and going just a bit, we found ourselves transported to our own mini Yosemite experience. We hiked for several hours, discovering so many little treasures, from a sweet horse named Clark to the smallest little friend, a black and yellow caterpillar. We even discovered a couple of small waterfalls with rock ledges. These turned out to be just right for our boys, since they wanted to climb around. By the end of the day, they were happy, relaxed, and ready to take on another car ride the next day!

Moral of the story? Sometimes we just try to cram too much into a family vacation. As adults we want to “see” everything, when in fact there are so many other things to see. By the way, on our drive home, I was not at all surprised to hear that my boys’ favorite experience was our mini Yosemite hike. It warmed my heart knowing that we’d made the right choice to experience part of our vacation on our kids’ own terms.

How a Special Book Helped Our Family

Friday, November 14th, 2008

I wanted to share my story of the impact a Chinaberry book had on my family. (I originally wrote this in autumn 2005–we still love reading this book.) Please share your story of a Chinaberry book that has touched your family’s lives.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

I am a new single-mom who recently adopted twin 3-year-old girls. Due to their background, the newness of our family, and their age, my daughters were having a lot of trouble separating from me when I would take them to preschool, at bedtime, etc. It filled me with sadness when I would see their surprised looks when I came to pick them up from preschool and they would ask me “You came back to get us?” I was looking for books that could help them feel reassured that this Mommy will always love them, take care of them & come back for them.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn was the perfect book to help illustrate that point. At every separation (and any other time they wanted), I would give them a kiss on the hand, ask them to put their hand on the side of their face, and repeat “Mommy loves me.” It sounds so simple, yet it really works. Now, several months later, I am happy to say that the girls are still happy to see me after work, but never surprised. The Kissing Hand book and concept have really helped the girls feel/sense my love for them during the school day & even throughout their sleep. (They also like to give me a “kissing hand” so I can remember how much they love me.)