Every parent has concerns about their children’s health. But have you considered: are grandparents making your child obese? Val Mullally discusses how to comfort an upset child, without resorting to unhealthy food habits.
I am lying in bed with my throbbing ankle propped up. I’d taken the dog for a walk – my foot found the pothole my eyes had missed – I hobbled home – and now feeling immensely sorry for myself, alone in the house. And all I want is bread and butter pudding. Not any old bread and butter pudding. My Gran’s bread and butter pudding. Bread and butter pudding is for me the ultimate comfort food.
Are Grandparents Making Your Child Obese?
Possibly grandparents are contributing to children’s weight problems. giving children unhealthy treats are one concern but I’d like to chat about how we unwittingly hook kids on Comfort Food. Like my craving for Gran’s bread and butter pudding. It’s my psychological substitute for the warm hug and loving support I need when I feel down.
But aren’t grandparents supposed to be doing the loving, calming, make-you-feel better thing? Of course they are. But what children really need, like all human beings, is loving connection. Food becomes the addictive substitute. Not any food – but the sweet, sugary food we associate with tender love and care.
What Can A Parent Do?
As the parent, you need to have a calm discussion with the grandparents about giving TLC without creating a dependence of overly sugary, high-calorie foods to feel better.
Take for example the day Betty comes home from school to her grandparents’ house. Within minutes she’s in floods of tears, sobbing because the class has just been told that their beloved teacher will be leaving them at the end of this week.
Doting Gran, in her concern for her grand-daughter, scurries to the kitchen.
She comes back with a plate laden with a gI-NOR-mous slice of rich chocolate cake.
‘Here, darling, this will make you feel better.’
The sugary chocolately goo has the desired effect as Betty stops sobbing and begins munching.
But what’s the long-term impact?
Repeated incidents of comfort food teach Betty to reach for the indulgent, sugary, fat-inducing foods whenever she feels sad.
And so the loving grandparent unwittingly opens a trapdoor that could lead to unhealthy eating, and ultimately serious life-long health challenges that they would never wish on the child they love so dearly.
Grandparents need to hear that developing their grandchildren’s habit of comfort eating could lead to diabetes, heart problems and other debilitating and life threatening health issues. Grandparents might see a ‘cuddly child’ and be unaware the child who is overweight in pre-school years is likely to have a life-long challenge with weight. What grandparent would wish ill health on their grand-children.
How to Respond to a Child’s Distress
Betty needed a loving person to hear her story, without interrupting, without trying to explain it away or tell her it’s not really so bad. She just needed her experience to be heard. And she needed someone close to empathise with her emotional pain:
“You’re feeling so sad about your teacher going. You’re really disappointed.”
When a loving person connects with Betty’s story she will ‘feel felt’, and she will be more able to contain her emotional pain. Yes, she’ll cry. That’s okay. Grandparents need to know the tears we cry when we are distressed are chemically different to the tears we cry when we peel an onion. Upset tears contain stress hormones. So there’s wisdom in the old sayings, “Have a good cry.” / “Cry it all out.”
When Gran or Grandad have listened deeply and been there for her in her tears, Betty will be able to move forward. The wise grandparent will now ask something like,
“I can see you really care about your teacher. What would you like to do to show your teacher you’re sad she’s going?”
Here’s the opportunity to provide the child with a healthy stress relief. Grandparents (and parents) need to have crayons, coloured papers, glue and suchlike always at the ready. Get her involved in something creative to give to her teacher – maybe a hand-made farewell card.
When we make art we make meaning of our lives.
Other Ways A Grandparent Can Support Grandchildren
Of course, there are other ways Grandparents can help their grandchildren deal with upset emotions. Gardening, planting our spring seedlings or raking up autumn leaves, picking flowers, walking, building a model, knitting, cooking, quilting – all take time. And time is often exactly what the child needs. Time to slow down and have someone there to hear you. Someone who listens with their whole heart. Someone to hold you. Someone to hold your thoughts and emotions. Your ups and your downs.
Grandparents can be key to helping our children develop healthier lives. Not only physically healthier but emotionally healthier.
Rather than leaving the discussion with grandparents at “Don’t give them sugary food,” tell grandparents all the ways in which you do appreciate their support of your children. Grandparents can be key to giving children what they really need, instead of the hollow sugar food substitutes that never fill the hole in a child’s soul.
Take time to affirm grandparents for all the meaningful ways in which they give your children the message, “You are precious. You are special. You are loved.”
Over to you. In what ways do you see grandparents encouraging unhealthy eating habits? What are the grandparenting qualities you most appreciate?
Linda Martin, what were you thinking? Storming off the stage to confront Billy McGuinness, after verbally attacking him as an ‘odious little man’ in front of a TV audience of thousands. (Replay on the Irish Examiner webpage.)
It seems TV loves it when chaos erupts during a live performance – reality TV at its ‘finest’ but what are our children learning about human interaction?
Are we adults giving a message that if somebody says something you don’t like or agree with:
– it’s okay to insult them
– it’s okay to make them feel small in front of others
– it’s okay to bring other unrelated comments into the argument?
(‘You may not be used to dealing with women with brains’ – Linda, what is that saying about your opinion of the many woman who interact with Billy McGuiness, including Laura O’Neill!)
What was Linda hoping to achieve? She’s a fine lady and we’re proud of her contribution to our country. I just wish she’d used this opportunity to model graciousness. What I want my children to know is how to have a good clean fight that improves understanding and restores relationship.
So for Linda Martin and for any parent who wants to raise their child’s level of Emotional Intelligence, here are ten top tips on how to use Anger constructively.
* You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.
* When you get angry the reactive part of your brain takes control, so your clear thinking temporarily shuts down. So rather than blurting out the first thing that jumps onto your tongue, focus on your breathing. Breathe in 1-2-3-4-5-6-7- out 8-9-10-11 several times. You’ll get more oxygen into the brain, you’ll become calmer, your thinking brain will reengage
* Ask yourself, ‘What really matters here?’ (If you were to look back on this incident in ten years’ time, what would you like to remember?)
* The person’s behaviour is about them; your response is about you.
* Two wrongs never make a right.
* It’s never ok to insult another. Treat others as you would like to be treated, even (or especially) when you’re angry.
* When there’s an issue that needs to be discussed, stick to that topic only and don’t allow any other issue to contaminate the space.
* Anger is always a signal, ‘I need change.’ (So figure out how to create the change you need. And sometimes the only change you can make is the way you think about something).
* Anger and aggression are not the same thing. I feel angry but when I act out of that anger it becomes aggression. Aggression is never pretty, helpful or healing in any relationship.
* My feelings are never wrong, providing I never use them as weapons against anyone, including myself.
What tip would YOU add to this list about Managing Anger?
Nearly fifteen years ago I started a programme that introduced preschoolers to basic Emotional Intelligence, including what to do when you’re feeling angry. I was so amazed at the children’s enthusiastic and wise response to this work that it began my path of working with parents so that families can:
think more clearly,
connect more compassionately,
behave more response-ably
and live more joyfully.
If you’d like to discover more, I’m running a six week evening Parenting Course in Douglas, Cork: How to Listen so your child Will Talk
and also Kinsale: ‘BEHAVE – what to do when your child won’t’ (based on Val Mullally’s forthcoming book)
Is your child anxious about school or childcare?
‘How do I know if my child is being treated okay?’ you may be wondering.
Parents can often feel confused about how to help when they are concerned about their child’s well-being at school. One key thing that you can do is listen so that your child feels heard.
Imagine that your child makes a comment that concerns you.
Getting to hear what’s really going on depends on how you listen. This especially matters if you are worried about your childcare being anxious or unhappy at school or if you have childcare concerns.
Unhelpful responses some parents make:
Child: ‘I don’t want to go to school.’
Parent: ‘Ah, you like school. All your friends are there.’
Parent: ‘Just two more sleeps and then we’ll have the weekend. Then we can have lots of time together.’
Parent: ‘Now be good. And then I’ll buy you a sweetie on the way home.’
These responses aren’t helpful because they ignore your child’s experience of life and they shut down the conversation.
What your child needs is a safe space to be heard.
How to respond more helpfully:
Child: ‘I don’t want to go to school.’
First PARK everything that is going on for you – all those thoughts chasing around in your head and all those emotions that jump up and grab you by the throat.
PARK your own concerns so that you can really be present to your child.
Like parking your car, you can come back and pick it up later. Right now PARK all that’s going on for you and choose to be present for your child.
To really listen, here’s some of what you might need to PARK.
1. PARK your anxiety.
It makes sense that a comment like, ‘I don’t want to go to school,’ can get alarm bells clanging in your head. But your anxiety will get in the way of listening in a way that will really connect.
How to PARK your anxiety:
– Focus on your breathing.
– Focus on being calm.
– Focus on being present to your child.
2. PARK your busy-ness.
If this is important, other things will need to wait. Your child is only going to open up when they sense your undivided attention.
3. PARK your own need to ‘fix’ things immediately.
A safe listening space is the best gift you can give your child right now. Afterwards there will be time to seek professional help, if needed. But you will never again have this first moment of what your child needs to share now. Choose to be fully present for your child now.
4. PARK your judgments.
Thoughts might jump into your head about what might have happened – judgments about the staff, about yourself or about other children.
You might have thoughts like:
‘That worker is a *!*&!’
‘I’ve failed my child.’
‘How could they …’
‘Oooh, this is all so terrible …’
These thoughts will wind you up. You need to be calm to hear your child’s story first.
You might be jumping to conclusions.
Whatever the thoughts are, you can choose to PARK these judgements and focus on being present to your child.
5. PARK any feelings of guilt or anger.
Yes, you may have many strong emotions coming up. But if you allow yourself to focus on your feelings of guilt or anger right now, you are putting the focus on yourself instead of on your child.
So now you’ve PARKed – what next?
When you choose to PARK your own stuff you can cross into your child’s world. Only when your child really senses you connecting will they share what’s bothering them.
Make sure you are calm.
Choose your tone of voice, your eye contact and your body language to connect.
Child: ‘I don’t want to go to school.’
Reflect your child’s words (without adding anything extra) :
Parent: ‘You don’t want to go to school?’
Child: ‘Cos my friends won’t play with me.’
Parent: ‘Your friends won’t play with you? Tell me more.’
Keep your own stuff PARKed. Keep focused on being connected with your child. Reflect what your child says and adding ‘tell me more.’
Hold the listening space.
Keep connected and wait for your child’s answer.
Don’t rush in with more words.
Just hold the listening space for your child. Then reflect what you hear, using your child’s words.
When your child senses the connection, he’s likely to share.
Keep holding this listening space.
You will get to the point when your child has told you all he needs to say.
Whatever your child needs, be there for them.
Reassure them that you will deal with it. Give a cuddle or go for walk. Trust your intuition to give what your child needs.
When you PARK your own thoughts, judgements and emotions you will find you are able to really listen to your child and to sense what ‘s needed, no matter how small or large the issue.
A few extra tips:
#1 Be careful to avoid talking about concerns about your child’s situation in front of your child. Children are listening even when you think they aren’t, and they are going to pick up your anxiety.
#2 Avoid trying to prompt the conversation with your child. If you push or pry or ask questions when your child is not ready to talk, your child will shut down down the conversation like a hedgehog rolls into a ball when it feels unsafe.
#3 Avoid leading questions that can put thoughts in your child’s head that weren’t there before.
‘Did she smack you?’
‘Did she shout at you?’
are your thoughts. PARK them.
Hold a ‘clean’ listening space so your child can share his own story. When you are there to really listen, you may discover that your child’s upset is not big. The connection time will still be precious.
Or if it is a serious issue, at least your child experiences you as his loving and connected ally, who will take action on his behalf.
Please comment on your experiences of your child being unhappy at school or your childcare concerns (But please do not name staff or institutions in your comment).
Please seek professional help if you have any concerns.
Let’s not forget our appreciation for all the staff in childcare centres who are doing sterling work. Many of these are community based, not-for-profit centres. Most childcare workers follow this career path because they are passionate about young children. We all need to lobby for better pay, training opportunities and working conditions for the childcare workers who ARE taking good care of our children.
If you are looking to train or retrain your staff,
Val Mullally is an experienced teacher, principal and trainer in Early Education.
She is also a skilful Siolta facilitator.
Related posts: ‘Toddler Upset – essential reasons for responsive parenting’
You Are My World – Amy Hatkoff
Why Love Matters – Sue Gerhardt
The Whole Brain Child – Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes – Peter Levine and Magie Kline
‘Double de-clutch! Yeah, I know what you mean. We used to have an old morris minor,’ laughed my friend on the other end of the phone.
My dad’s hobby was cars. I grew up in the heart of Africa in the sixties and early seventies, which meant that I drove a number of ancient bangers that most collectors would now love to have in their classic collection. I had my licence at age sixteen and those early driving days required a whole range of skills that weren’t part of the official test but were mandatory for keeping the wheels turning. Double de-clutching required slow and careful gear-changing to prevent the ear- jarring rasp of metal on metal. You also had to know how to push-start your car (sometimes as a solo act). Windscreen-wipers were so poor that you would periodically put your hand out the window with a cloth to try to clear the screen a little. Steep hills were a feat in driving, with undersized engines and slow gear changing that eroded what speed you did have. When you knew you had a steep climb ahead, you accelerated as hard as you could on the downhill approaching the climb and then you prayed there would be nothing to slow your speed. Lose too much speed and you would have to stop, change back to first gear and laboriously crawl the remainder of the hill. I remember one particularly steep hill in the Matopas, Zimbabwe, where we had to roll back down and start all over again.
I think we learnt a lot of skills and patience driving those old iron steeds but now it’s great to be able to jump in my car, turn the key in the ignition and expect smooth-running travel to my destination. We did the best we could with what we had then but what an improvement. (Have you seen the latest Audi A5 ‘Ugly Duckling’ advert? I love it!)
You may be asking what this has to do with parenting. How I see it is that you have the choice to ride in an outdated, and often inconvenient mode of Parenting, that will often feel uncomfortable and exhausting, or you can choose to trade that in for something that has taken advantage of new breakthroughs in awareness and enjoy your Parenting journey. In either vehicle you’ll end up at the same destination but one ride will be much smoother and kinder on you all than the other.
I, for one wish, I had known when my children were young what I know now about how to parent.
Some of the key things I’ve learnt are:
– how to REALLY listen
– what exactly do we mean by self esteem, why it matters
– why Emotional Intelligence is core to your child’s success and what we as parents can do about it
– how to use conflict as a growth opportunity
– how to discipline to get the results you really want
– the power of our negative thoughts and what to do about it
– how to create a win-win experience for all concerned.
Would you like to ride in the equivalent of the latest Audi A5 when it comes to your Parenting?
This year is your chance to discover what a coaching approach to Parenting is all about. The Koemba Foundation module is over three weekends, (Friday evening and full day Saturday) and commences in Tallaght, Dublin on Friday 1st February 2013.
Sign up today to benefit from our 10% Early Bird discount.
I know Iʼm generalising here – and hats off to all the dads who have got a handle on whatʼs needed with raising a toddler. Hereʼs a young dad doing the best he can, but at times heʼs not meeting the toddlerʼs needs. Mums often sense this and feel frustrated:
ʻDo I let them go off together and sort it out – but what about my baby?ʼ
Very often Dads have had very little preparation for taking on Parenthood. So how would he know whatʼs needed? Hereʼs a few suggestions that can pave the way to more involved and happier fathering.
1. Involve Dad from the beginning. As one Dad said, concerning the care of their baby, ʻI felt as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike.ʼ Why would you want to be involved if your efforts were being blown away in the wind!
2. Appreciate his help. Getting the practical stuff done can take a lot of pressure off you. But heʼs not going to do it YOUR way. Give appreciation not criticism if you want his support.
3. Give him insights / tips without inferring that heʼs ʻwrongʼ. Avoid language like ʻThe right way to do this is…ʼ Because when you say that, itʼs giving the message, ʻYouʼre doing it WRONG.ʼ None of us like to be wrong – and specially not if youʼre male. Youʼre more likely to get support from Dad by using ʻhelpfulʼ language: ʻWhat I find helpful is …ʼ Also avoid ʻshouldʼ. Males hate being told what to do. Rephrase as ʻcouldʼ (Thereʼs a choice there – and he can decide). e.g. Rather than ʻYou should give him toys to play with.ʼ Try saying ʻYou could try giving him toys to play with.ʼ
4. Discuss with him that he has a vital role in creating calm family. Sometimes being an ‘out-to-work mum’ or ʻMum-on-Duty-24/7ʼ can feel overwhelming. You get stressed and thatʼs contagious to babies and young children. The stressed child cries more and is more likely to be ill, so you become more stressed, so the little one becomes more stressed, and downward it spirals. Dad need to know itʼs a scientific fact that one of the most helpful things he can do for his young child is to be a calming factor in Mumʼs life. If youʼre calm, itʼll be easier to calm the child. P.S. Discuss this when YOU are calm!
5. Share key neuroscience facts that help us know whatʼs needed for young children to thrive. Dad likes provable facts – not ʻfluffyʼ talk. ʻOh poor little miteʼ isnʼt likely to impress Dad. But when he has some biological insight, heʼll have facts that will be key to him in how to parent in way that meets your childʼs needs.
FACT: The young childʼs brain is still under construction. So he does not reason like an adult. When he throws the phone because heʼs upset the toddler canʼt understand that it costs a lot of money and needs to be treated carefully. Mobile phones are not toys. Thatʼs why toddlerʼs toys are built of pretty much indestructible materials. The toddler is not trying ʻto get the best of you’ or ʻget his own backʼ. Thatʼs adult thinking that the young child isnʼt yet capable of. The toddler is trying to let you know his needs arenʼt being met.
Rather ask: ʻWhat might this behaviour be trying to tell me?ʼ
Because his brain is still in formation he canʼt self soothe.
When the toddlerʼs upset he needs to feel a parentʼs body calmly holding him. He needs to hear his name spoken repeatedly and calmly. He needs words of reassurance.
When young children get the loving reassurance they need, they build strong, healthy brains that will be able to cope with stressful situations in adult life.
6. Dads are not Mums. He wonʼt do it your way. Mums tend to do the ʻcuddle and reassureʼ. Dads often naturally do theʼ rough and tumbleʼ and this is a healthy and necessary part of the toddlerʼs brain stimulation. Sometimes the excitement will go too far and end in tears. If youʼve already shared the ʻbrain factsʼ, trust him to figure out whatʼs needed.
Dad can be the strongest ally you have in child raising.
What are you doing to encourage your allyʼs support?
P.S. Even if youʼre separated – I invite you to think about what parts of this article can guide you to successful co-parenting.
copyright © Val Mullally 2012 http://www.koemba.com
‘How do I give my twelve year old freedom but also keep an eye on her without her thinking that I don’t trust her?’
What’s helpful when teenagers are pushing for freedom and you’re worried about their safety?
As parents we develop strategies to try to keep our teens safe – but not all are necessarily helpful.
The Checking Up Strategy
What I think isn’t helpful is ‘sneaky’ checking up.
I think of one mother who used to surreptitiously check her teenage daughter’s phone. The daughter resorted to renaming the ‘not- allowed’ boyfriend as ‘Jenny’ on her phone.
Life has a strange way of boomeranging – and if you do sneaky you’re likely to get sneaky.
One of the things that I did with my sons that was helpful was to have a policy that if they wanted to go out, we, as parents, would be phoning the parents who were hosting the event so that we could check arrangements.
They knew this was the deal and that we would not agree to them going out if there was anything that was of concern to us.
The ‘ParentPepTalk’ Strategy
I was so anxious that my sons would turn out ‘right’ that I thought it was my job to repeatedly remind them what ‘good’, responsible behaviour looked like. Now I look back I recognise that my sons had been taking ‘snapshots’ of ‘how we do life’ from a very early age. By the time they get to their teens they have a complete reference catalogue stored up –
how we do conflict
how we deal with upset feelings
what we do if we can cheat and get away with it
how we show love
what’s okay and not okay.
The endless list is already stored and the last thing teens need or want at this stage of their lives is the constant peptalk. When my son was in his early teens he told me about boys drinking at parties, he immediately got the ‘That’s not okay, please don’t you ever do that, I’ll be so disappointed, blaah, blaah, blaah’ ad infinitum lecture. So what happened within a couple of years is he stopped telling me what was happening in his life. The wiser me now recognises that he was telling me because he was trying to make sense of the standards we’d encouraged. It would have been more helpful if I’d just listened to what he wanted to share and asked his opinion.
We can get so worried by what we think might go wrong that we only focus on the negatives. What I know now is that if a child has a strong sense of self-esteem she’s not going to be trying to fill the ‘hole in her soul’ with drink, drugs, sex and all the other parent nightmares. A child with a strong self-esteem has an inner core she can rely on.
So how do we build young people’s self esteem?
Recognise that self esteem is much more than self confidence. Self Esteem is like a three legged stool and confidence is only one of those ‘legs’. Like any stool we need the legs to be of equal length and strength for a stable base. I’m most grateful for learning this concept through Jesper Juul’s book: ‘Your Competent Child’.
So let’s look at each of these:
Confidence comes from our sense of competence. Learning to be able to do things for yourself and to be able to figure out what’s needed is all part of confidence building. Obviously a situation that’s too big and overwhelming and beyond the child’s control will have the opposite effect and would damage the child’s confidence. That’s why it is important that we as parents both build our children’s confidence and also set clear boundaries around what we do and don’t permit.
Confidence is built when young people can figure out their own solutions. If parents are always rushing in to solve every dilemma, how do children learn? Ask yourself if there are times when it would be more helpful to let your child take the consequences of her action (or inaction).
Belonging In the teen years a sense of being part of the group becomes very important. The challenge comes when your child loses a sense of ‘belonging to herself’. Our need to feel connected to ourselves (our autonomy) and our need to be connected with others is like a see-saw. Both parts are necessary and the balance will only be kept if it’s firmly grounded in unconditional love.
When you get the first ‘teenage rumbles’ rather than resort to ‘Because I said so’ or caving in, focus on seeing these as opportunities to help the child keep connected with herself and her values and to learn to negotiate with you.
Worth Your child needs to know that nothing she does can add to or take away from her intrinsic worth. When she knows this she’ll know you are the ones to turn to when life’s uncertain.
When your child has a self esteem stool with three strong legs of confidence, belonging and worth, she has a stable base to deal with the challenges of teenagehood.
Our children are already born with incredible potential to beautiful, wise, creative, compassionate, wonderful people.
You’ll discover more insights and practical tools in my CD ‘Helping Your Child Cope in the Real World’. Also available as MP3.
Helpful books on this topic:
Your Competent Child Jesper Juul
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families Stephen Covey
Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood William Pollack
Great to see children thinking about what will make other people happy at Christmas. I know we’ll be flat-out with preparing the sleigh from Christmas Eve, so any final seasonal thoughts for Parents?
Percy Postelf, Mrs Claus and I all agree that Mark’s dad will appreciate a present that’s been carefully chosen. We started talking about the madness of Christmas shopping.
Remember the lyric ‘The fox went out on a windy night’.
As parents, you know that a fox in the hen coop can go on an unsatiated killing spree.
I sometimes think children can be a little like that when there’s an overabundance – ripping through everything without taking time to savour anything.
Maybe this festive season feels like a crisis time for some.
Here are two key thoughts that might be helpful:
1) Somewhere I read that the Japanese word for ‘crisis’ also means ‘opportunity’.
What would happen if we saw our current situation as an opportunity?
What if we all asked ourselves:
‘What’s the opportunity for our family in the current crisis we’re experiencing?’
2) ‘Less is more’ and ‘slow’ have become global movements. Reflect on how this might be true for your family this Christmas.
Let’s choose “less presents and more presence”.
“Happiness does not come from having more, it comes from loving what you have.”
If you’ve enjoyed these posts you’ll want Val Mullally’s parenting book Behave – What To Do When Your Child Won’t
Enjoying other people’s pleasure at receiving gifts, is one way our children may benefit when there’s less.
Christmas is the time for recognising what really matters in life.
Despite challenging circumstances, may this be a wonder-full and joy-full Christ-mas for each and every family.
Love and God bless to everyone.
Santa, Mrs Claus and PercyPostElf
P.S. To see my other Christmas letters:
Day 4 Christmas Surprises
Day 6 No Money This Christmas
Day 7 Christmas is for Giving
Day 9 When Grown Ups Fight
Day 11 Can’t Forgive at Christmas
Here’s another letter from Daniel. So glad his parents are sorting things out. (Maybe they read your letter about ‘When Grown Ups Fight’!)
It makes sense that it’s hard to forgive, even at Christmas, when someone has deeply hurt you. Many people are stuck in a place of anger/unforgiveness regarding an ex, their own parent, someone else, perhaps they are struggling to forgive another group of people who have injured those we love. And sometimes it’s ourselves that we find hard to forgive.
What would you like to say to parents who find it hard to forgive?
It makes sense that when people hurt us, it’s hard to forgive.
What we often overlook is the cost of unforgiveness – to our physical and emotional health but we also often forget the huge price that unforgiveness can cost our children too.
Let me share with you an African tale on how to catch a monkey.
Find a tree with a very small hole in the trunk. Take a handful of peanuts and while the monkey is watching you, push the peanuts into the hole in the tree. Now move away and wait. The monkey will soon come for the peanuts. But when he puts his hand into the hole and seizes the peanuts, his fist is now too big to get out the hole. He doesn’t want to let go the peanuts – so he’s stuck. Now you can catch your monkey!
That’s what happens to us when we hold onto unforgiveness. It’s hard to forgive because we think we’re punishing the person who hurt us but actually, we are keeping ourselves stuck in one place. Sometimes we avoid forgiveness because we don’t want reconciliation with a particular person or situation. But forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. We can choose to forgive, even if reconciliation isn’t desirable or advisable.
Forgiveness is choosing to let go of the ‘peanuts’ of anger and bitterness. These uncomfortable feelings are emotional termites that eat away our family’s happiness if we don’t deal with them.
‘Peace on Earth’ doesn’t just happen. Peace happens one relationship at a time. Peace happens when people choose to be peace-makers. And sometimes part of peace-making is forgiving.
Did you know that our way of living is hugely influenced by the thoughts of the past four generations and that the thoughts we think will affect the next four generations? This Christmas let’s consciously choose the emotional legacy we leave to our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great, great-grandchildren.
It can be helpful to take time to reflect:
‘Is there a situation where I am finding it hard to forgive?’
‘On a scale of 0-10 what example of forgiveness am I modelling to my children?’ (0 equals holding tightly to bitter, angry and unforgiving thoughts and 10 being free of those).
This Christmas I ask parents to get the help needed to let go of unforgiveness – for their children’s sake as well as their own.
The word ‘forgiving’ is actually two words. What do I choose to give: to myself / my loved ones / that other person?
Christmas is a time a time for giving and for for-giving.
Reconciliation is not always advisable but we can choose to let go of our bitterness or anger and move forward.
Now it’s over to you – how will you choose to be a peace-maker this festive season?
P.S. Check in tomorrow for my final letter this year. After that, Rudolph and I will busy with present deliveries.
P.P.S. Here are my other letters:
Day 2 ‘Need’ or ‘Want’
Day 4 Christmas Surprises
Day 6 No Money This Christmas
Day 7 Christmas is for Giving
Day 9 When Grown Ups Fight
Day 10 An Attitude of Gratitude
How nice to get a thank you letter. I really appreciate appreciation!
Did you ever see a picture of a sad Santa? When we focus on gratitude our brains release serotonin, the ‘feel good’ chemical. The more we focus on what we appreciate the happier we’ll be. And happiness is contagious. So let’s think about how parents can make magical moments at Christmas.
Even in relationships that are ‘cranky’ right now – try thinking every day of at least four things you appreciate about that person. You get what you focus on!
The great thing about limited finance is that families often start to create what really matters. Instead of the buy-buy-buy mentality, they become more aware of what Christmas is really about – celebrating the mystery of Love.
And it doesn’t need to cost money to enjoy what really counts. In fact, happiness experts say that the happiness from new possessions only lasts a few days or weeks at the most. It’s meaningful relationship that creates the connection – that creates the happiness – that lasts.
Here are some of my favourite ideas for families to make magical moments this festive season:
✓ Making Christmas decorations together.
✓ A Christmas walk (maybe a day walk, scrunching through the snow, or going out in the dark to admire the Christmas lights) if, like me, you’re living in a cool part of the world.
✓ One of my favourite Christmas activities in our village is the community Carol singing in the Park on Christmas Eve.
What are the no-cost activities that make Christmas special for your family?
Cocoa by candlelight with carols playing? A game of Pictionary?
Choose to make magical moments this Christmas. I’d love Parents to write in and share what happy memories they are creating.
P.S. Tomorrow I’m going to follow up re Daniel’s Mum and Dad fighting.
P.P.S. Here’s my other letters:
Day 6 No Money At Christmas
Day 9 When Grown Ups Fight
Day 11 Can’t Forgive at Christmas