Keeping the “Happy” in Happy Holidays Part 5

December 26, 2012

Happy Holidays iStock_000019542496XSmallWritten by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

This week, I will conclude my series on the 5 H Plan for Keeping the “Happy” in Happy Holidays. It’s a simple plan that I hope has helped you navigate through the holidays and might also assist you any time in life when you have additional time demands, family members around, interrupted routines, or are traveling. No matter how we celebrate the holiday season, we must be vigilant in protecting our children and our homes from the craziness that often comes with it.

The 5 H plan consists of:

  1. Healthy Habits (November 21st blog)
  2. Hearts of Gratitude (November 28th blog)
  3. Helping Hands (December 5th blog)
  4. Having a Hearty Plan (December 12th blog)
  5. Hilarious Humor

Hilarious Humor

  1. Laugh out loud with your child during these ‘Happy Holidays.’ Your holiday is NOT as joyful as it could be if you don’t have a few “belly laughs” with your child.
  2. Replace your routines with the JOY of the unexpected! Put away the mundane of everyday life and live inside the smiles and laughter of your children. Remember that they want YOU. Do something out of your comfort zone that makes them laugh. Wear a crazy hat, silly socks, or crazy holiday attire. Give a silly gift. Show your playful side and keep everyone smiling.
  3. Embrace childhood enthusiasm. Parents must coach their child and rein him in when his enthusiasm causes his behavior to get out of control, but that’s okay. It’s our job to help our children regain control. Don’t keep yourself from embracing enthusiasm with your child for fear it will get out of control. Let go and experience it! Setting limits then becomes a lesson rather than a punishment.
  4. Change your attitude. Change the words you use — chaos becomes “unstructured,” “out of control” becomes “child-like fun.” This doesn’t mean that you allow your children to do anything they want. They will not feel safe with that. This means that you look for the humor in an event FIRST. You work to find the smile.
  5. If you allow your child to stay up later than usual, eat sugary treats, or ease off on other rules of the home, be prepared for the consequences and DECIDE to enjoy the memory. It’s all in how you approach it.
  6. Children have playful spirits. They LOVE it when their parents play with them. PLAY with your children this holiday season. If you want to keep the “Happy” in Happy Holidays, study young children and watch how they really get into the moment. Remember that “Joy lives in the present moment,” so get into the present moment with your child.
  7. The holiday season is a great time to focus on peace regardless of how or even if you celebrate. Talk with your children about something as simple as sibling peace or as complicated as world peace. The principle is the same. The end of one year and the beginning of another is a great time to discuss “new beginnings” and how to work toward peace with everyone.
  8. If you choose to celebrate, don’t miss the magic of the season. Experience it through the eyes of a child. As Andy Rooney said, “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created on Christmas morning in the living room. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”

I hope that you have enjoyed this series of blogs and may 2013 be a great year for each of you.


Talking to Children about the Sandy Hook Tragedy

December 17, 2012

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

Our hearts are broken … and our nation is reeling from one of the most horrific crimes we have ever faced. As we see the beautiful pictures come into focus of the first graders who were doing nothing more than innocently traveling into the world of learning, we cannot fathom why anyone would chose the violence that the precious children inside that school experienced. Our hearts and prayers are with each parent, grandparent, and family member directly affected by this heinous act. We weep with you, and we stand with you.

We cannot make sense of this loss, and we will never be able to explain to our children why this happened. Many things will be written about talking with children about this tragedy, and I know that concerned parents will look at various sources for guidance. However, I hope you will apply these two points when helping children deal with every situation in life: Ask andListen.

1.     Ask children the right questions.

a.     What do you know about what has happened?

i.     It is critical that adults find out what children have heard and to assess their level of understanding as the starting point of conversation. The younger the children, the less information you should allow them to hear. Shield them as much as possible from news of the tragedy.

ii.     Build on what they know and don’t add more details than they need to hear. Children’s brains cannot process the awful pain and sadness of events such as this one. Once you find out what they know, it is okay to say, “Yes, this has happened, but it is over now.”

iii.     Shield them from seeing the event replayed on television over and over. Children are very literal, and they may think that it is happening again and that children are stilled trapped in a closet. Let them know it is over, find out what they are worried about, and answer their questions.

b.     How does that make you feel?

i.     Children will typically express how they feel, and you can comfort them in tangible ways. If they are afraid of the “bad man,” you can assure them that he is no longer alive and could not come into their school.

ii.     Children think very concretely, and there is no reason to discuss the possibilities of a copycat scenario with a six-year-old. Keep your explanations simple and concrete and think of ways to assure your child that she is safe.

c.     Ask them specifically what you can do to make them feel safe but be confident and retain control.

i.     Children can be so honest and transparent and will often tell you exactly what they need to feel comforted. However, they also know how to use your vulnerability to get what they want. Hold your child, listen to him, and reassure him while moving toward restoring his routine.

ii.     While we may want to spend special time with our children for their sake or for our own, we should not give them control of their world. Children may think they want control; but at their core, it frightens them. If they are in control, they are making decisions as they go and that breeds insecurity. Children are comforted by living in a predictable environment where they can count on what is going to happen next.

2.     Listen to your children.

a.     Take extra time to hold and reassure them about their world in concrete ways.

i.         Children need you. You need them. They need your time. They need for you to listen to them. You need to listen to them. Children can sometimes surprise us with their insight and wisdom if we just stop talking and listen.

ii.         Children are amazing. Someone once said, “A child does not have to be taught how to be happy or the ways of love. It is fear, hatred, and prejudice that have to be taught.” Children know how to love unconditionally. They astound us sometimes when they open their mouths, and we can learn from them if we will just listen.

b.     Take the time to listen to your child … you CANNOT help her if you do not listen first. Remember this quote from Jesse Jackson: “Your children need your presence more than your presents.”

Ask the right questions and then listen as your child tells you what she feels, what she knows, and what she needs. It is perfectly okay to not have all the answers in life … no one does. Your child needs to know that you are available, that you care, and that she can confide in you and tell you anything. Good parenting is about building a strong relationship. It is about being honest, sincere, caring, and smart.

Keeping the “Happy” in Happy Holidays Part 4 of 5

December 12, 2012

Happy Holidays iStock_000019542496XSmall


Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

I have shared three of the ‘H’s’ in the 5 H Plan for Keeping the “Happy” in Happy Holidays and will write about the fourth and fifth ‘H’s’ over the next two weeks. The 5 H Plan is simple, and I hope it will help you navigate through the holidays and any time in life when you have additional time demands, family members around, interrupted routines, or are traveling.

The 5 H plan consists of:

  1. Healthy Habits (blog on November 21st)
  2. Hearts of Gratitude (blog on November 28th)
  3. Helping Hands (blog on December 5th)
  4. Having a Hearty Plan
  5. Hilarious Humor

Having A Hearty Plan

  1. Do NOT overschedule your children. The holiday seasons you have with your young children will pass very quickly, and there will be plenty of holidays to celebrate when they get older. Do NOT try to do it all.
  2. Lower the expectations that you have for your child. I realize this might seem odd. However, if you anticipate that she will behave badly at least some of the time, you are more likely to be pleasantly surprised by how well she behaves much of the time! When you lower your expectations, you just might be able to really enjoy your children.
  3. Change YOUR attitude about the holidays. Don’t assume that “chaos” is always bad. It could be just fun without the structure. You might find many hidden treasures of fun in what you previously dreaded once you change YOUR attitude. Plan to let go of some of the rules!
  4. Parents who experience the most joy during the holidays have learned HOW to stay in the “present.” Remember: “Joy lives in the present moment.”
  5. Plan activity-based celebrations such as baking cookies, making cards, decorating, and creating gifts. Celebrate the holidays through events in which children can participate and then donate the goods to those in need.
  6. Create a calendar that includes shopping excursions, visits from friends, and school events. If appropriate, show your children all the dates that they have to dress up, be away from home, or do something that they may not enjoy. If they know what’s coming up, they are more likely to cooperate. As you look at the calendar, think of ways that you can be proactive.
  7.  Involve your children in capturing holiday memories. They could take photos, make movies, create scrapbooks, and draw pictures. This is especially helpful if they are the only children present at an adult function. Involve them in ways that they can interact with the adults.
  8. Set a good example for your children and make a plan to take care of your own mental and physical health.

The familiar quote, “Failing to plan means planning to fail,” certainly applies to this time of year. Put some thought into how you will manage the holiday season. Give yourself permission to relax but think ahead to the “next best move” so that you stay one step ahead of your children.  Most of all, plan to have fun and relax.




Keeping the “Happy” in Happy Holidays – Part 3 of 5

December 5, 2012

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

Over the next three weeks, I will continue to write about the 5 H Plan for Keeping the “Happy” in Happy Holidays. As advocates for our children, we must be vigilant in protecting them and our homes from the craziness that often accompanies this time of year. The 5 H Plan is simple, and I hope it will help you navigate through the holidays and any time in life when you have additional time demands, family members around, interrupted routines, or are traveling.

The 5 H plan consists of:

1.     Healthy Habits (November 21)

2.     Hearts of Gratitude (November 28)

3.     Helping Hands

4.     Having a Hearty Plan

5.     Hilarious Humor

Helping Hands

1.     Help your child. He cannot succeed on his own. He needs your guidance to be successful throughout life and especially when there are extra people, pressures, and outside influences around him. Seek to understand HOW your child develops. Brush up on your parenting skills. Study to fully understand the age and stage of each of your children. Don’t expect your 18-month-old to want to be with everyone.  She is in a phase that most likely finds her obsessed with Mommy.  A 2-1/2-year-old is going to be all about independence — “I do it myself,” she says. You shouldn’t take it personally if your 12-year-old is more interested in being with her peers than being with the family. Know what is normal and don’t mistake normal behavior for misbehaving.

2.     Observe who is carrying the load of the season and work together to make the holidays enjoyable for everyone. Watch to see what you can do to assist the females in your family.

3.      Remember your values and teach them to your children. Talk about the values that are important to your family. Develop new traditions. Hold a family meeting and determine what traditions you will continue to observe. Don’t get stuck doing what you have always done just because you have always done it that way.

4.     Give children a role. Very young children can understand helping and even very “uninterested” pre-teen and teenagers will benefit from helping others. They learn by doing, and it’s the best way for them to “catch” your family values.

5.     Remind children of how you expect them to behave. Review the rules so that a child has every opportunity to succeed. Find a way to keep the message positive, light, fun, and engaging but make sure that each child understands the expected behavior. I remember my mom lovingly reminding me of the rules at my grandmother’s home right before I walked in the door. My grandmother did not like for us to sit on her bed once it had been made. She was very sweet, but this was one of her pet peeves. Mom would always “help” me be successful.

6.      As much as possible, allow children to participate in the actual shopping, preparation, planning, baking, creating, or whatever is involved in making gifts or goodies for others.

7.     Instill compassion and encourage generosity by getting your children involved. The best way to instill compassion in your child is first of all be compassionate yourself. Values are caught, not taught. Children must participate in acts of compassion WITH you. Generosity comes from a heart of gratitude and from recognizing that there are others in the world with far less. Find ways to expose your child to those in need.