Posts Tagged: Alyson Schafer

Holiday Stress is All in Our Heads

A few weeks ago, I was complaining that I had a little black cloud following me around. An unexpected flat tire, a cut finger that took me to the emergency room, and on and on….

But actually, that little black cloud was not over me. Rather, it resides inside me.  It’s so true, and it speaks to one of the most powerful and important Adlerian principles, one of human beings’ most terrific qualities, and one that we under-utilize: our ability to be “creative.”

By creative, I don’t mean you need to be a talented painter or dance like Martha Graham. What I mean is that while we may not be able to change our situation, we can always choose our attitude about our situation. We decide!

When a car cuts me off, I can get angry or think: “Boy, he must be rushing somewhere important. Maybe he is rushing to the hospital because his wife went into labour!”  Or “It’s a good thing he cut me off, I am good defensive driver – someone else might have been in a collision!”

It goes to follow then that our stressful life events are really perceptions, and therefore self-created.  We choose to respond with a stress reaction to things. We could choose not to! Imagine – stress free living!  It’s all in your head!  If you want a much more persuasive argument, try reading Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning.  His book explores this topic and was written while he was interned in a Nazi prison camp.  If human creativity is possible under those conditions, then it can certainly be accomplished during the holidays, for Pete’s sake!

So I have decided to dry up my black cloud and fully enjoy my winter holiday.  I refuse – absolutely refuse  – to be anything but happy and joyful.  How about you?

Repeat after me:

  • I refuse to let a full parking lot cost me my happiness – I will wait patiently and listen to music.
  • I refuse to panic over not finding the perfect present – I trust anyone receiving a gift from me will receive whatever they get in gratitude. And if they don’t – shame on them!
  • I refuse to freak out over the state of my house – I will appreciate that I actually have a roof over my head and that I am blessed with friends who will visit me!

Happy holidays, everyone!

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

Meaningful Family Holiday Traditions & Gifts That Give Back

Yesterday, my brother was telling me about a project he and my 11-year old niece came up with. They are spending time together making winter scarves and offering them as a thank you to anyone who wishes to make a donation to the Salvation Army. What a great father – daughter undertaking at this time of year.

He went on to tell me that instead of a holiday gift exchange, his children had all agreed to a have a “good – deed exchange”. Instead of supporting mass commercialism, they would give of their time and energies to help each other, or folks in need. Okay, now that really speaks to me about what this holiday season is supposed to be about.

His family is not alone. I have another close friend whose family has decided to have one big family party instead of a gift exchange. The adults are having a potluck supper and enjoying each other’s company without anyone feeling the burden of “cooking and hosting” the traditional meal. The children are painting T-shirts together as a remembrance of family and the holidays.  The holiday money is being used to finance a family trip to be together.

These two families reminded me that we don’t have to keep up with old holiday traditions – we can make our own meaningful new ones. They challenge our thinking: do you really need MORE “stuff”? Maybe some time together is really what your children are aching for.

I am not sure I can do away with being a gift giver that quickly, but I have decided that I’d rather put my money towards experiences we can all enjoy together: Theatre tickets, a family pass on a ski hill, that sort of thing.

Just a thought you might want to noodle around too.

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

Holiday Dinner Proper Table Manners

It’s that time of year once again. When we gather around the table and enjoy holiday dinner with our extended family.

Joy… right?  Ahh, not so much. Especially if you are stressed out about your uncouth 7-year old son’s behaviour. Will he break bread, break wind, or worse, toss bread? Or maybe even pout about hating his gravy touching his peas?

Shouting “Where are your manners?” is just as much a part of the holiday meal as cranberry sauce.

We forget our children have substandard table manners until they’re under scrutiny of company and extended family.  Suddenly we think that a stern look or a quiet reminder is somehow going to snap them into shape like yet another Christmas miracle.

Instead we have to invest some time BEFORE the holidays to prepare and train our children in the ways we expect them to behave when we have company. Here’s a quickie dining etiquette course.

Alyson’s Table Manners Bootcamp:

1) Don’t teach table manners during the special occasions.  Instead, have some easy family dinners together that are “fancy” in the dining room with china, crystal, and gravy boats on a Sunday night when it’s just your family.  Get dressed up.  Make it over-the-top fun, like you are actors in a play about movies.  “Pardon me, but would you care for some more water with lime in your goblet?”

2) Teach instead of correct.  Discuss proper etiquette in a relaxed “did you know” way.  Usually we just correct children for their mistakes which they hear as criticism. “Your bread plate is the one on the left” is nicer than “Hey – that’s not your plate, use the other one”.

3) Explain that there are different levels of manners based on the formality of the occasion.  It may be okay to skip the napkin when you are eating grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, but Christmas dinner means you need to put the cloth napkin on your lap. Discuss this BEFORE company arrives. If you don’t, your children will think you are inconsistent and are just making up different rules all the time.

4) Create a list of misbehaviours (privately) that you specifically want to parent around – and tackle them NOW.

3 common ones and their solutions are:

1. Interrupting while others are speaking. Try passing around the salt shaker and whoever has the salt shaker has the floor and can speak while others listen.  You may also need to bring a timer from a board game to the table to make sure no-one goes on and on (and on) longer than 3 minutes.

2. Getting up and down from the table.  Try applying a logical consequence: “ If you get up from the table, that tells me you are done the meal”.  If your child opts to get down, so be it.  Quietly and calmly remove their plate, and don’t offer alternative food until the next meal time. They’ll soon learn to stay at the dining room table and eat enough to fill their tummy.

3. Bubbling milk and other hijinks. Most dinner disturbances serve to keep the lime light on the child. Instead of responding to misbehaviors with nagging and reminding – ignore poor manners and use distraction to engage the child in a more positive conversation.  Ask them about their favorite super hero, or what they want to be when they grow up.

If your children don’t use their proper manners, you can excuse them from the table and invite them to come back when they do want to use their manners.  OR, you can excuse yourself and choose to eat in the kitchen where you don’t have to watch bad table manners.

Try some of these in the weeks to come BEFORE the big holiday feast with family.  And when in doubt – you can always have the kids and cousins eat on a card table in the basement!

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

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