Our family has become fragmented over holiday gatherings. Now, with Thanksgiving
approaching, I’m inclined to take our children to volunteer at a Thanksgiving dinner for homeless folks rather than gathering with our larger family; however, when I spoke to my brother about doing that, he was angry. The problem is our
children, ranging in ages from 6 to 13 (there are seven of them from four families), don’t get along that well and it seems they always squabble over something. Our two children are the younger ones.
Is there a rational way to
keep peace in the family at this time of year?
– Loves Peaceful Holidays
Thanksgiving Day’s deeper meanings can often be obscured as holiday stress brings family dynamics and tensions to the surface. Sometimes children act out conflicts that the adults in the family have yet to face openly. Is there anything you and your adult siblings need to resolve?
But giving thanks to God for the blessings of home, family, and community can be in itself a blessing to us. I commend your idea of taking your children to volunteer at a Thanksgiving dinner for homeless folks. Giving to others is the best way to give thanks to God. If the schedule can be arranged, why don’t you do that earlier in the day and invite you nephews and nieces to go along with you. Then you all can go to the family dinner as well. Perhaps the shared experience of service might give the kids a new perspective on the deeper meaning of the day. Also, a lot of planned, structured activities before and after dinner for the kids might help.
Peace to you all,
Rev. Bryan Jones
St. Luke’s of the Mountains
It’s sad, although not unusual, that holiday family gatherings can be stressful instead of joyful and bonding as they are meant to be. Since you indicated you would like to include other family members, particularly the children, it might be good to
bring the idea up when everyone is gathered together, including the children, and see what the
response would be. I would suggest bringing it up as a positive way of teaching compassion
and humanitarianism towards helping others, instead of stating that, “since we end up fussing when we get together …” That would certainly put the others on the defensive.
Children today, of all ages, are more aware of the need to reach out and help others. There are stories in the news, groups of young ones raising money for various causes, even foregoing birthday presents to donate to needy children. These young ones are much more in tune than we sometimes give them credit for. Perhaps you could take your children for part of the day to volunteer then share the experience with the rest of your family when you gather together. When your brother and other family members hear yours and your children’s accounting of the experience, perhaps they may consider joining you in the future.
As far as spending the day together with your family, just keep thinking “love” around everyone. If any “discussions” come up that are challenging, remember that it takes two to fight, and if you don’t participate, there is no fight. Even suddenly saying “I love you” in the middle of it all can break the negative spell of the moment.
Blessings for a joy-filled holiday to you and your family!
Laney Clevenger-White, RScP
Center for Spiritual Living –
My husband and I don’t drink or smoke. We found out from a friend that our 14-year-old son was seen smoking with a group of teenagers. We know the information is true. Our problem, or rather my problem, is that I believe my husband has over-reacted, taking away our son’s privileges, including video games, computer and television, for two months. He also enjoys going to Saturday afternoon movies with his friends and that has been taken away as well.
Is there a sane way I can discuss this with my husband on our son’s behalf and find some middle ground?
– Worried Mom
Dear Worried Mom,
Clearly, you and your husband have already agreed to be attentive, engaged parents. You are off to an excellent start for the challenges of the teenage years. You do indeed want to be on the same page as you help your son learn how to make good decisions for himself. I’ll give you some clues, and then I’ll suggest that you sign up together for a short parenting class.
In general, you want the consequences to be related to the action. If your son is using his independence and free time poorly, then as a family you would explore consequences that rein in his independence as he learns to live into it with wisdom. If he has too much free, unsupervised time, you’d want to consider replacing that with structured, supervised time.
And you’d want to be clear with your son that this what you are doing: “You seem to struggle to make good decisions when we give you so much unstructured, unsupervised time. We’re going to limit that to x for now. Let’s talk about how we can schedule y for the other part of your after-school and weekend time.” And then remember to check his progress as time goes by and negotiate his free time appropriately. You want him to grow from bad decisions, not just be punished. And you want to create an atmosphere of good communication. There are times when he will want you to create a barrier for his safety, but he won’t know how to tell you that if you haven’t tried to understand his day-to-day challenges.
I have appreciated the Systemic Training for Effective Parenting class, which is offered regularly at Pasadena City College’s Community Education Center. Our local YMCA in partnership with the Crescenta Valley Drug & Alcohol Prevention Coalition offers Tuesday night classes with professional family counselors. A class is helpful in that it gives you some shared parenting vocabulary and values. These will serve as a foundation for future discussions regarding appropriate consequences for behavior. A class also provides some relief, because you find out that you are not alone in your strivings to be the best parents you can be. We all need a little grace.
Crescenta Valley United
Dear Worried Mom,
Did your husband arbitrarily decide on his own without consulting you what the punishment should be? Will the loss of these pleasurable events really stop your son from smoking? There seems to be a communication challenge among you, your son, and your husband.
First, have a quiet discussion with your husband about what he thinks will be accomplished by the two months’ loss of privileges. I suggest that, together, you ask your son questions that could contribute to his better understanding of the ramifications of tobacco addiction: “Are you aware that tobacco is addictive; that medical documentation indicates smoking is unhealthy, and millions cannot overcome the addiction?” Is your son able to comprehend the long reaching physical and emotional effects? My father clearly explained to me about actions that could not take place until I was of legal age, such as driving. What convinced me was the openness of communication between my parents and myself. They told me that drinking and smoking would be my decision when I was legally old enough. I appreciated that they emphasized in detail the probable challenges I would experience if I used either tobacco or alcohol and how excessive use of either could affect my life. When my father said that I could come to him any time without any consequences to discuss any problem I was facing, I knew that I had a friend for life. We still communicate openly!
Peace & Blessings,
Rev. Steven Van Meter
Center for Spiritual Living – La Crescenta