News & Views
from   The Parenting Center at Abington

.           GIVING OUR THANKS
  Preparations, decorations and celebrations... Thanksgiving can leave us feeling dizzy with more of the same for December!! Yet the title itself and perhaps even the fuss prompt us to reflect on all that we have received throughout our lives. There is value in that, for us as parents and for our children. We become more thankful.

Reality Check
  With so many messages pouring into our homes from our increasingly media-crazed, techno world, we can quickly become dissatisfied with the way things are. We wish for more stuff, more time off, a better job, more income, a bigger home, newer car, more opportunities, choices, access....anything other than what currently is. Desire becomes need.
  In her book,The Shelter of Each Other, Mary Pipher discusses the art of advertising. Ads are designed to "create a feeling of longing about a deeply human need, then suggest a product that will satisfy that yearning." Businessman B.E. Puckett said, "It's our job to make people feel unhappy with what they have." What is the impact of these messages on our families, on our children? They learn to expect instant gratification and that acquiring material possessions will solve problems.

Recognize your influence
   Parents can counter these messages from the media because they are still the most important models in a child's life. When we allow ourselves to slip into a spiral of negativity, our children are observing and modeling our behaviors. Dr. Richard Carlson, in his best seller, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, confesses that the first thing he loses as he cycles downward is his "sense of gratitude." Resentment and frustration replace the love he wants to feel. As a result, our children may receive mixed messages. They may feel inadequate or unworthy because of their inability to comprehend the reasons for our discouragement. They may blame themselves and act passively or aggressively or both.

Refocus Ourselves
   Carlson suggests we spend a moment every day thinking of someone to thank. He claims it is one of the most important habits he's ever engaged in. His gratitude expressed to family, friends, teachers, co-workers, a courteous driver, grocery clerk, bank teller, anyone, leads him to feel more peaceful. One expression of gratitude then leads to others. This exercise or behavior reminds him to focus on the good in his life.
   Oprah has long recommended keeping a gratitude journal. Reflecting upon the day's worth and accomplishments, she suggests writing five specific things for which we are thankful. A periodic review is also encouraged. She reports a life changing impact from scores of viewers keeping gratitude journals.

Remember your children
   So often parents get caught up in the day to day efforts of everyday living, and forget to notice the wonder of their unique children. Giving our thanks specifically to our children this month could have a positive impact on their self-esteem and on your family relationships. Remember to thank them not only for cooperative behavior, but also for who they are. Some examples are:
    "I am glad you are my daughter."
    "I appreciate you just because you're you."
    "I enjoy spending time with you."
Focus on their capabilities and improvements.
    "Thanks for helping with the dishes."
    "Thanks for sharing your toys so willingly."
    "I appreciate how you kept working until it was all cleaned
    up."
  These thanksgivings can be given verbally or in writing. Napkin notes are especially fun to send in school lunches. Or place sticky notes in drawers, on mirrors, on YOU!!!

Review
   Finally, take note on how expressing your thanks makes a difference in your family. Change is not easy. It may take more than a few days to notice. Look for changes in yourself, your child(ren), and in your relationships. Share your observations and feelings. Most importantly, give yourself credit for progress, great or small.
Happy Holidays!!!


By: Pam Nicholson, Certified Parenting Educator
Sources and Suggested Reading:
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - Richard Carlson, Ph.D.
The Shelter of Each Other - Mary Pipher, Ph.D
Your Child's Self-Esteem - Dorothy Corkille Briggs
Nov/dec 1998
Vol. 1/ No. 3
The Parenting Center at Abington
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