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Welcome to the December 2013
“News for Parents”
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- WHAT’S NEW?
- COMING ATTRACTIONS
- Handling Passive-Aggressiveness
- Not EVERYTHING Is Abnormal!
I. WHAT’S NEW?
Creating Holiday Joy (without Shopping)
Whether you’ve got a tight budget or you’re disgusted with the commercialism of the holiday season, there are a lot of reasons to make your family understand that “stuff” isn’t necessary for happiness. And there are a lot of ways to celebrate the season without focusing on expensive gifts.
One idea: sit down with family members and ask each to suggest a couple of activities that they’d like to be part of this month’s events. Pencil in as many as you can on your calendar, whether most everything has to happen on weekends or if you have some weekdays free. Among the ways we at Parenting Press celebrate with our families:
Strolling the year-round farmers’ markets now that they’re draped with fresh greens, with musicians on every corner and occasionally, someone roasting chestnuts
Waiting on the waterfront by a bonfire for the decorated Christmas ship to pause long enough for its choir to sing a carol or two before cruising to the next stop
Standing in line at the ethnic bakery (in the editor’s case, the Scandinavian one), chit-chatting with the cheerful strangers waiting to pick up their kringles and yulekake
Attending museums’ special holiday programs, including displays of handicrafts brought from the old country by our area’s early settlers
Decorating pine cones with paint and glitter to mound in a bowl or hang on the tree
Baking, especially gingerbread men and women (easily made from a mix)
Setting up the electric train and cardboard village that are usually in storage
Surprising the kids by moving into the dining room for a weeknight candlelight dinner
In Seattle, where “News for Parents” is published, we seldom have white Christmases, but there have been a few holiday seasons when we’ve built snowmen, gone sledding in the park, and one memorable year, packed snow into dishpans to make blocks for a child-size igloo. When “snow fun” has been on someone’s wish list, we’ve gone sledding at Mount Rainier National Park or snowshoeing at a state “sno-park” just off a mountain pass highway.
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Carol of the Day
With music programs curtailed in many schools, and the emphasis on political correctness means limiting public school references to specific holidays, many children miss the opportunity to learn traditional hymns or carols. You can introduce your family to the carols you love with a library songbook, lyrics from the Internet or your own sheet music. Sing “Frosty the Snowman” in the car, “Jingle Bells” when the kids come home from school, or “Deck the Halls” in the kitchen, when you’re all cleaning up after dinner.
Even better, celebrate with your own “carol of the day.” Write song titles on slips of paper and let kids pull out a different one each day, to see what tune you’ll be practicing for the next 24 hours. (Kids who enjoy performing can be videotaped for distant relatives. If you make “carol of the day” a family tradition, you can eventually edit the tapes into one for a charming—and possibly hilarious—video scrapbook.)
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Develop Designing Children
When GO! A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design, new from Workman Publishing, landed in our office, the Parenting Press crew couldn’t keep its collective hands off this big, bright introduction to—well, it says “graphic design,” but there’s lots more than that in it.
Author Chip Kidd starts by pointing out that everything that doesn’t come from nature is designed by someone: milk cartons, traffic signs, shampoo labels, the pages of a book and a newspaper, a web page, remote controls. Whether it’s ugly or beautiful, puzzling or easy to understand, someone made it that way.
Intended for those 10 and older, this book is ideal for those of us without much design training or experience. It helps us understand why we do things a certain way—things as simple as garage sale signs and homemade birthday cards— and why we respond to the images all around us.
“Why should you care?” Kidd asks about graphic design. “Because it affects you all the time.”
Besides a little history of alphabet development, how colors are identified, and typesetting, Kidd introduces us to such design concepts as ratios and scale of both type and illustration, top to bottom, inversion, left to right, symmetry, positive and negative space, and resolution. He illustrates several different type fonts and what each might be used for. Even better, he uses examples of design to explain vocabulary that we use in all sorts of contexts: literal, suggestive, illusion, metaphor, irony, and so many more. If you do have art or design training, what you’ll appreciate about Kidd’s book is that his examples and explanations are comprehensive and accurate, as well as being concise and written in kid-friendly language.
The book concludes with ten design projects that arts-y kids (and parents, teachers, and youth-group leaders) will enjoy. We’ll talk about some of them next month. This month, however, when many of us see more different examples of design than usual with gift wrap, holiday cards, printed and online advertising, and packaging, use the concept of design as conversation prompts. A few ideas:
Invite everyone to bring something to the dinner table so you all can discuss design elements. For each item, ask family members to comment on the color, the shape, the images, lettering and colors. What makes sense? What do each of you like or dislike? Does each design look as if it were created by a professional in the field?
Look at a few of the holiday cards and newsletters your family has received. What can each of you point out about the designs and type? Are the newsletters easy to read? Are the pictures clear?
Use a magnifying glass to study the printing on catalogs, the newspaper, different kinds of gift wrap, greeting cards, hand-addressed envelopes and those that are machine-addressed. What differences do you each notice in the printing? In the paper?
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Gift Kits You Can Create
Creativity, ideally coupled with your time, is one of the best gifts for a child, and possibly also for many of the adults in your life. If you’re putting together holiday presents, or planning for someone’s birthday or a big brother/big sister gift, consider these:
Homemade cape made from a yard of black cotton, with a light saber, or in bright satin with a tiara and magic wand.
Miniature grocery cart or basket filled with serving-size cereal boxes and plastic fruits and vegetables, a wallet and play money
Box filled with “scrounge art” components: gift wrap and paper towel cardboard tubes, craft sticks, star stickers, corrugated paper in several colors, wheels and axles, plastic figures, colored cellophane, balsa wood, muslin squares, dowels of different sizes and lengths, and either a book like “Made by Dad” or project instructions and patterns, and a homemade gift certificate for shop time with you.
Easy-to-handle rolling pin, a wooden spoon, a jar with all the dry ingredients for sugar cookies, the recipe, and a grocery store gift certificate with a list of what else is needed. Add an apron, chef’s hat and promise to help, if you can!
A pop-up book like the wonderful “America’s National Parks, A Pop-Up Book, plus a how-to guide to making pop-ups, stiff paper, scissors, markers and a glue stick.
Swimsuit, goggles, towel and gift certificate for swim lessons or for open swim at the local pool.
A gift certificate for the local model shop or used bookstore, wrapped up with an invitation to finish the trip with ice cream cones.
A coloring book made by you with your own drawings, or with images made from family photographs using “pencil sketch” options in your software or online programs.
Stickers of images familiar to the child: photos of family, friends, pets, homes, preschool, park, toys—all made by printing pictures on labels of the appropriate size.
Want more ideas? Check last month’s issue for even more gift kits!
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Temperament and Parenting
When most people are asked to describe their ideal child, “the word ‘yet’ often sneaks into the conversation,” points out psychiatrist David Rettew in Child Temperament (W.W. Norton). We want the positive aspects of a temperamental trait, he continues, but not the negative components that often characterize the extremes of that trait. So we might say “exuberant and spontaneous” yet not “impulsive or extravagant” or “punctual and responsible” yet “sociable,” as well.
But, says the author, we don’t get to pick and choose. “Both the positive and negative aspects of a trait usually go together in a person.”
Instead, parents and others who live or work with a child must strive to draw upon and accentuate the positive aspects of a trait while overcoming its negative aspects.
“Accept and cherish” children for who they are, Rettew goes on, reminding that, “Most kids crave approval and validation from their parents.”
His next comment is important every day, and especially vital to remember in a season when family reunions are common, and children’s behavior sometimes prompts judgmental statements by extended family members: “Withholding that validation, especially for things beyond children’s full control like temperamental traits, can be quite harmful.”
Work with what children have rather than continuing the “battle” to turn apples into oranges, the psychiatrist advises, warning that may parents “often have clear ideas about what is optimal for their child’s well-being” and that these ideas may be “mixed with the hope that through their children, the parents’ own status and self-worth will be elevated.”
And thinking ahead to another typical activity of this season, the New Year’s resolutions, Rettew has other advice that makes sense for parents and caregivers: recognize your own temperament traits, and how they are affecting your interaction with your children, and influencing the children’s lives. For example, if both you and your child are easily frustrated, it’s up to you, as the adult, to control your natural tendency for exasperation whenever the child expresses frustration and won’t persist in a task. It’s also your responsibility to model persistence on your own tasks because your child will learn from these examples. (And make sure your child is aware that you’re persisting.)
Even more specific to those New Year’s resolutions is Rettew’s recommendation that parents, for the sake of their children, “override” their own traits. If both parents and child have little initiative and prefer to spend leisure time watching television, for example, he says parents must “push themselves” to “push the child.” In this example, parents would tell the child to select at least one school or community activity or sport to participate in each season. The parents would commit to supporting the child in this activity, and although Rettew doesn’t specify how, they might volunteer (say, as line coaches or in the snack bar) or participate in an adult group for the same activity or sport.
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Need a Nap?
Already exhausted by the thought of things to do, places to go, kids to chauffeur? The Parenting Press webmaster has (temporary) relief for our readers with this message he saw on a T-shirt: “iTired? There’s a nap for that!”
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Tips for the month
Each Saturday, Parenting Press posts a new parenting tip and the previous week’s tip is moved to the archive. If you’d like the tips e-mailed to you each week, just let us know with a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you put “Weekly tips” in your subject line and include the e-mail to which the tips should be sent.
December can be a challenging month for parents: so many places to go, so many seasonal tasks, unusually excited children, holiday travel, tight budgets. . .We can’t tackle all those topics in our tips for the month, but each week we are sharing archived tips about managing anticipation, traveling with kids and helping kids acknowledge gifts.
December 7 — Making Holidays Less Chaotic
December 14 — Traveling With Children In the Car
December 21 — Your Young Child and Santa
December 28 — The Tragic Case of the Child Disappointed with a Gift
Family Fun Ideas — Celebrating with Candlelight
Moonlight, starlight, candlelight: is there anything more special? For a family celebration that can extend over several days, consider luminaries. Traditionally, these are paper bags anchored with a few inches of sand, each holding a candle that shines through the pattern punched in the paper. They’re safer if you use votive or tea light candles in small glass jars inside bags made with waxed paper. So the project can include finding the bags, selecting designs to punch or cut into their sides, making the designs (with scissors or, for older kids and adults, large rug yarn needles), accumulating small jars (say, from instant coffee or jelly), obtaining the sand and determining what the luminaries will decorate. Will it be your sidewalk on the day of a party? The deck for Christmas Eve? A cluster in the yard for a late night decoration on Christmas Day? Or perhaps it’ll be all three!
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Community Service — Community Thank-You Notes
Our goal with this column is to suggest ways that you can model the concept of sharing and giving back to your community. There are practical advantages to community service, too. Kids can use these projects to meet school or youth group requirements for community service and to start building resumes that they’ll use when applying for first jobs or college.
This month we’re suggesting something simple that even very young children can help with: notes of appreciation to those who work in your community, including the librarian, the firefighters, the postal carrier, and the teachers. Before days get too hectic, the kids can get out their art supplies or computer programs and create cards or letters with at least a sentence of thanks. Or they can add facial expressions, color and a message to the downloadable “Way I Feel” card created by Janan Cain. On our web site, it’s the first reproducible on our Classroom Activities page.
The youngest children can dictate a thought and scrawl a “signature.” The kids can go in a group with you later in the month to deliver the notes (perhaps with treat bags of homemade cookies).
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Special of the month — Traveling with Children
This special has expired.
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