It’s birthday party season again. That time when kids (and their parents) are invited to countless parties eating into every weekend and spare minute of family time you have.
I shouldn’t say that. Parties are wonderful for the kids. A time to get together with their friends outside of school, where they can play, eat and generally be on a two hour sugar high. Great, huh?
It’s just that the end of the summer somehow warrants those born in both July AND August to schedule their parties just at the point where life is beginning its frenzied scheduled chaos. So, for some reason, it feels like a lot after a spring that was relatively party-free.
But seeing as the kids look forward to it and many of the kids are my daughters’ good friends, when is it okay to turn down a party invitation?
First, ask yourself how close are they really? If dd1 was invited because the whole class was invited and you know your kids don’t really hang out, take that as a free pass to turn it down.
How busy are you? If it means you’ll have to go from dance class to picking up dd2 from football to your hair appointment and then to the party, I think it’s safe to say that you’re busy. Don’t stress yourself to the point that you’ll resent being there the whole time.
Check if you can share the pick up/drop off with another Mum/parent. Even better, if your kids are at the age when you can just drop them off, this is definitely the best option. It gets more complicated when you’re expected to stay and help supervise but still worth a shot to take it in turns.
Family time always trumps birthday parties. If weekends are your only days to spend as a family and this is at a premium, it’s okay to turn it down. Spending time as a family is important and children crave that time (more than time with their friends-despite what they might say). Otherwise the weekend can just fly by. Alternatively, make it a family event. Enquire whether siblings are welcome and come with your whole brood!
What’s the activity and is it difficult to get there? Again, check how convenient it is for you and whether your child will actually enjoy it. If your child hates heights and they’re headed to GoApe!, it’s probably a miss for her.
Make it enjoyable for you! Yes it’s a party for the kids but heck, you’ve given up your afternoon as well so if beer or alcohol is on offer, take it! You deserve it!
Hopefully this list helps to reassure you there are legit excuses to turning down a party invitation… Send me your ideas and what’s worked for you! Good luck!
Our whole house has been hit with sickness and flu these past two weeks. First it was my youngest two and now, me.
I don’t normally get sick. In fact, I usually manage to avoid it. And yet, even with me being able to stay healthy for most of it, the past two weeks have nearly driven me insane.
I’m pleased to say, though, I think we’re coming out of the worst of it and I’ve learned some things that I think I can pass on to make sure other Mums don’t make the same mistakes as me.
Here are 6 tips for maintaining your sanity when your little ones are sick.
Get out of the house! It’s tempting to stay at home all day everyday until the kids get better for fear they’ll get worse if you expose them to the cold outside. But honestly, my only saving grace was being forced to get out to do the school run for my oldest. The girls liked getting out of the house and though I didn’t keep them out too long, I think their sinuses appreciated the fresh air.
Don’t feel guilty about putting on the tele… When you don’t know how long your kids are going to be sick, you may start out all gung-ho with arts and crafts at the ready, play doh, baking and games. But it will take its toll. In between the whining and clinginess, you’ll just need a break from it all and putting on the tele is the easiest way to catch a break. Do what you need to do get through this and don’t feel guilty!
Leave the cleaning and laundry. Trust me you’ll need every last ounce of energy and patience to deal with two whiny babies so don’t waste it all on cleaning. There’s nobody around to see it anyway.
Arrange playdates at yours. Once the kids aren’t contagious anymore, it’s important that you (and your kids) don’t go insane being around each other all day everyday. Arrange a playdate at yours with one of your child’s friends and their mum. You’ll need the adult conversation just as much as they’ll need the playtime and seeing other children. Just make sure you remember number 3 above! Otherwise, it’s counter intuitive.
Make them sleep! No matter what age they are or how long they’ve been out of napping, when kids are feeling under the weather, they need to sleep. Even if they refuse to sleep, Insist on some ‘rest time’ that means they have to lie in their beds at least for a half an hour. It buys you some time but more often than not, they do fall asleep.
Take advantage of weekends when your partner is home. Let your spouse take over when they’re home. They can help in so many ways and help save your sanity. Even if it’s just to take over the cuddling.
Don’t skip your morning coffee! Coming from experience, you’re going to need this so make sure you get it in early so you can face the rest of the day.
“Mama, tell Brianna’s mum that I don’t want a playdate.” I ignore her and keep talking, entertaining the idea of the playdate that Brianna herself has asked me for before and for which I now find myself being approached by her Mum.
Sensing the fact that this might just go ahead without her approval, my daughter panics and jumps in, patting Brianna’s mum on the arm. “I don’t want a playdate with Brianna.” Simple, short and to the point. She knows I’m embarrassed and the silence hangs in the air as I struggle to find words that might dull the sharpness of her declaration.
Public Domain Image via Pixabay.
“A, don’t say that. That’s not nice. She’s just tired,” I apologise to Brianna’s Mum.
I don’t know why I’m embarrassed. My daughter should be able to decide who she likes and with whom she wants to have a playdate. It’s not everyone that my daughter will become friendly with and it looks like despite my having a great relationship with her Mum, A does not like Brianna.
It’s a familiar story in our household, where after school conversations are dominated by who A played with, whom she didn’t and why or why not. “Why don’t you ever play with Sam?” “Because I just don’t, Mama. I don’t like him.” I wince at the matter-of-fact tone she adopts, taking me back to that place of pain at being the one left out when I was growing up.
My daughter is reasonably popular in her class, having gone through a period of settling in earlier in the year and experiencing her dose of feeling left out of the already-established peer groups. She came home a couple of times crying because she wasn’t asked to join in with the girls who were playing a game outside.
Slowly and gradually, I was able to convince her that she shouldn’t take it personally and that she should just continue being herself and people would like her.
Months later and she’s more at ease now, less desperate to be friends with certain people and confident in herself that she can do her own thing and others may or may not join her, but it doesn’t matter. It’s had a profound effect on her confidence and it seems others are now doing the chasing.
As she gets older, of course she is going to have more established peer groups which will form according to their likes and dislikes and what they have in common. But I thought at such a young age, most of the kids play with each other. Is this is an opportunity to teach her inclusion using her valuable after-school time as the forfeit, I wonder?
And now that she is the one being chased, how do I instill in her that feeling of compassion for others, careful not to live out my own childhood feelings of exclusion and bullying through her just because she is popular and confident. She hasn’t done anything wrong and she doesn’t want the playdate. So why can’t I leave it at that?
She groans as I gently suggest to her after school that we should have a playdate with Brianna. “Nooooo, Mama.”
I’m out of my element here, caught between respecting my child and what she wants and using this as an opportunity to teach. I drop it and make the decision to tell her a story about how it feels to be left out at bedtime.
The next day A comes home to tell me that she sat beside Brianna at lunchtime. “I saved her a spot in line as well,” she says proudly. Before I can respond, she’s already skipping off happily showing her sister the daffodils that have just begun to sprout.
A didn’t want the playdate and she shouldn’t have to. She knows that being kind is the lesson here. But extending that to two hours of forced play seems unfair when she’s done exactly what she knows I want her to do.
I smile as I realise the rest of the lesson is for me. To trust that she can and will do the right thing. On her own terms. And it’s that simple.
In just over a week, our children will be waking up wide-eyed to see presents in the double digits waiting for them under the Christmas tree.
Every year I promise not to overdo it and then, with presents from relatives, grandparents, friends… and throw in Santa and ourselves, we end up with way more than we planned.
We even started early this year, asking each of our girls to choose one thing they’d really like from Santa. While watching their eyes glaze over while they pawed through the Argos catalogue (don’t ask me how they got this!) circling everything they possibly could, OH and I both realised we had work to do to make sure our kids understood the true spirit of Christmas.
It’s not just this time of year either, it seems like every time we go into a shop, my kids seem to want everything they lay their eyes on. Like they’ve never seen these things before or because they think they are absolutely entitled to getting at least one treat bought for them every single time we go out.
And if they get the toy, the must-have thing of the year- the L.O.L doll, the Match Attax cards, the Shopkins or the latest Transformer… how long do they really play with it? How did we get to this point? I have often asked myself.
Last week, my oldest daughter admitted L.O.L dolls are actually a bit boring. But with the maturity of someone who understands, she admitted the adverts and Youtube videos make it look so much more exciting. Admittedly, it hasn’t changed her desperation to get the latest series…
Why is teaching our children gratitude beyond saying “thank you” so important?
I know it makes me feel good when my child thanks another adult or child when they are given something. And that’s because it shows that our child recognises the value in that something, or the effort that person made to give it to them. Obviously, it can just be automatic sometimes, but at other times, when it’s genuine and self-initiated, it feels good to hear it.
If our children recognise the value of something, it makes them feel good and it makes them appreciate that person or something, sometimes even motivating them to do the same for someone else in the future. It’s a social emotion but one that I think all of us recognise can make the world a better place.
For adults, studies have shown that being and feeling grateful has physical, psychological, and social benefits, including: lowering blood pressure, improving immune function, increasing happiness and well-being, and decreasing feelings of loneliness and isolation. So if we want our children to grow up to be happy, content and well-rounded individuals, helping them appreciate what they have is a big part of that.
What are the benefits of gratitude for children?
As early as 2 years old, children are learning that there are good things and bad things. They start to understand that the world goes beyond just their immediate family and they can start to understand how interconnected we all are, sustained by others and relationships.
When we care for our children, and show them generosity in different ways, children feel better. Helping them appreciate these acts of kindness can help strengthen relationships and help them to model these behaviours with others. Developing stronger relationships can amount to increased resilience over time. And when a child is resilient, he or she is better able to have a happier, more satisfied, connected life—and a higher sense of purpose.
So How do we raise grateful kids in an entitled world?
My youngest is 3 years old, and it can be a hard concept to grasp- having empathy for those around you, being grateful of what you have and being able to show kindness and appreciation to other people. But we have to start somewhere. And in fact, like most things, it’s probably better to teach them early rather than later.
This year, we decided to be very intentional about it. Here are 10 things you can start doing.
1) This Christmas or birthday, resist the urge to buy them that one last gift.
I know it’s hard. It was for me. I think we’re accustomed or brainwashed into thinking that if we get them that one last thing, they will be happy. They will, for about 5 minutes.
First thing is to remove half the gifts under the tree. Birthdays will come up, 28 day return policies… whatever. It’s just important that your children appreciate every gift they receive, or at least most and not open them, toss each aside and look for the next one. Reducing the number is one step towards appreciation.
2) Say no to your kids.
They have to hear it because it makes the ‘yes’ more special and they will appreciate whatever it is that much more. In this day an age, we’re taught not to say ‘no’ but to say ‘perhaps you can have it later, or “would you like this instead?” I believe a good old-fashioned, ‘no, you cannot have that’ didn’t hurt anybody. Plus, it means that your children are taught the lesson that they can’t have everything they want. It’s a valuable lesson in life that will set them up for later, hard as it is.
3) Give your kids jobs or chores to do.
Not simple ones but ones that involve hard work. So they begin to appreciate that many things take hard work. I remember one time when my oldest asked me for something and I said, I don’t have any cash on me. She said, “simple, just go to that machine in the wall and get some”. I knew then that I needed to explain something to her. She thought that things just happen, that her bedroom was somehow clean because she woke up that way. No, showing her how to clean her room, put away her toys and make her bed gave my oldest a sense of pride in getting it right. It meant she became a stickler for kids going in her room and messing things up but at least she got the message that it takes hard work to have what you have.
4) It also means sacrificing.
Teach your children that having new things or doing certain things takes sacrifice. Teach them the value of money. Explain to them that if you go to the cinema tomorrow, they won’t be able to also go to softplay. Make them part of that decision so they learn to appreciate what they were able to do and learn that it took a sacrifice of something else they enjoy.
5) When the children get older, you can teach them to give things away, ask them to go through all of their things and choose items or toys that they no longer want. If they can sell these for cash, use the money to serve others, and let them choose how they want to use the cash.
I read about one Mum who had a do-good day every month. Each month, her children would do extra chores for money such as mowing the lawn, washing the car, picking up garbage from their local park and they would use this money to donate to a local charity. Her kids got so used to serving others and sharing, they started asking for charity donations in lieu of birthday gifts! How amazing is that? They were so thankful for what they already had, they wanted to give it all back. Let me tell you those kids felt so good about what they were doing and it really made them into confident kids.
6) Being intentional can mean building in regular family rituals that teach the value of gratitude.
One of these rituals can include an active gratitude practice. Ask each child to bring to mind a person (parent, teacher, coach, etc.) who has been kind to them, but whom they haven’t had the opportunity to thank. Guide them to select a person they can meet face-to-face, then make a plan to deliver a thank-you letter to that person. Make the activity fun and interesting. Ask children how they might want to add to the family gratitude ritual. Novelty is essential for children to remain involved and excited, so try to change things up from time to time.
Choose a moment or moments everyday to reflect as a family about what you are grateful for. We started saying grace at every meal during the summer but somehow it got lost in the hubbub of our lives. But I’d like to reintroduce that idea or at least the idea of thanking God, (the creator, your own spiritual equivalent) for three things we are grateful for each day. We started doing this at night but this can be done at anytime… supper time, bedtime, even on the way home from school. Carving up time within each day to stop and appreciate can have such a big impact- letting children reflect on their own lives and giving thanks for all that they have.
8) Develop an awareness about how we are all interconnected.
Ask each other who do you think made your food, where did it come from , who grew your food, made your clothes, your computer, your tele etc. Play a game and let them understand who and what was involved in bringing that object to you. Reflecting on all the people who helped make that object come alive can help children appreciate and understand their place in the world and how we are all interconnected.
9) Writing thank you cards in advance.
No doubt after Christmas, it will seem like a chore. But before all the excitement is over and while they’re still in anticipation mode, it would be great to capture that energy to thank those who sent them presents, those who invited us for Christmas lunch or those we’d like to remember this holiday. I think it also helps prepare their minds to think about the giver rather than it being one big unwrap-fest in under 3 minutes.
10) Setting expectations.
Set reasonable expectations when it comes to your children showing gratitude and thankfulness. I read about one Mum whose kids used to complain at dinner, “Chicken again? Why don’t we ever eat anything good?” Who hasn’t heard that said at least once?
The parents sat down with their children and had a heart-to-heart, making it clear that this behaviour was no longer ok. They set an expectation that no matter what they eat, each member of the family will thank the chef for the meal. Since then, thank-yous were sincerely given, even from the two year old, because they set that expectation with their kids.
I know I said 10 but I couldn’t leave this one out. It’s perhaps the most important…
11) Finally, model the behaviour you want your children to possess.
What random acts of kindness do you do in your everyday? I can’t say I’m the best at volunteering and going out of my way for strangers or people in need. So last year, we decided we’d do some baking and take it around to our neighbours. The girls loved the idea of baking for a day and were so into it. Baking three different types of Christmas cookies and truffles in one day was a bit stressful but after closing my eyes to the mess, I did eventually enjoy it. We decorated each one and put them in little boxes ready to take around to friends and neighbours. Afterwards, they asked, ‘why are we giving them away Mama? Can’t we eat them?’ But once they got it, they were all in. They couldn’t knock on enough doors! We were even discouraging them from knocking too many times or avoiding certain doors. For them, it was all or nothing. To our surprise, two neighbours dropped by our flat that very night and gave us champagne and cards in return! A great lesson for them to learn ‘the more you give, the more you receive’. Even I was inspired afterwards.
Do you set an example and show appreciation in everything you do?
Do your kids hear you thank others for the help you receive?
Do you express a heartfelt thank you for the unexpected hug that lit up your morning?
Or for them putting their laundry away without being asked?
The girls with their Christmas lists for Santa
About to go deliver their Xmas boxes=)
What are your top tips for raising grateful children?
Gratitude requires discipline and setting an intention. It is a choice. It’s easy for anyone to take for granted the gift of life and the gifts we individually have.
I think we nailed it. We’ll see next week when the madness begins.