Christmas Magic

Snuggled in a fuzzy blanket, your hand around a cup of hot chocolate, lying on the couch to watch Christmas movies is a popular holiday tradition. Have you seen any good Christmas movies lately?

‘Tis the season for Christmas movies. I’ve watched movies on Lifetime and Hallmark for weeks.

After viewing countless movies, I unscientifically identified six Christmas movie categories. Do you recognize these?

Hometown Love. A young person returns to her hometown and falls in love with a childhood sweetheart or a local she didn’t notice when she was young.

Workaholic Changes. The workaholic who misses Christmas. Either circumstances or a unique person changes his or her view. Reminder: there’s more to life than work.

Caring Communities. A community comes together to help others in need or save a beloved town or business.

Pain of Christmas Past. Ignoring Christmas is easier than facing the sadness of Christmas past. That is until an individual reminds them of wonderful Christmas memories and encourages them to celebrate Christmas once again.

Rescue Christmas. Helping Santa, Mrs. Claus, elves, and/or angels save Christmas or teach others about the magic of Christmas.

Eclectic. A hodge-podge of miscellaneous movies: blended family’s first Christmas together; winning a contest becomes a love story; or falling for a Good Samaritan.

No matter what category the movies fit into, there’s one theme. The magic of Christmas. The “magic” may be angels, Santa Claus, a miracle, a love story, healing relationships, or restoring the meaning of Christmas. During the movie, a character usually says something like, “Christmas is magical. Anything can happen at Christmas.”

Chris Lite captures Christmas Hallmark movies in his article for The Week. “Hallmark gives us a parallel world, in which fate and goodness are looking out for you, and your best life is just around the corner, if you only just believe.” 1

And believe we do. We believe in romance. We believe in love. We believe in family. We believe in hope. We believe in goodwill towards humanity. We believe in magical Christmases. These beliefs are reflected in countless movies. It’s the reason millions of people, just like me, spend hours watching them with smiles on our faces and warmth in our hearts.

Huntington Post’s guest blogger Cathy Sikorski shares why she’s drawn to Hallmark’s holiday staples. 2 Some of her reasons may be similar to yours. Romance, a connection to humanity, living an uncomplicated life, a chance to drink wine and shed a tear, see a special kiss, encourage others, not watch anything “bad,” and feel Christmas all over again.

Sikorski adds, “I wanted to believe…even just for a minute…believe. You never leave a Hallmark movie without believing in Santa, Christmas miracles, love, mended and blended families, decisions with no regrets and that all is and can be right with the world. What could ever be wrong with that in just 90 minutes?” 1

What could be wrong with this Christmas magic? While millions of viewers cherish the “magic” of Christmas, the real magic of Christmas seems left out. Although some movies include families attending church, singing traditional Christmas carols, observing a nativity, or mention God or prayer, something’s missing. The true meaning of Christmas is forgotten.

Over two thousand years ago, God sent his son, Jesus, as a gift to each of us. The real magic, actually the real miracle of Christmas is this greatest of gifts and with it the potential for new life. We just have to decide if we will accept God’s gift or not.

As I watch these delightful and sometimes predictable movies and the magic they offer, it certainly touches my heart. But I must never forget to keep my focus on God’s real gift, the real Christmas “magic” of a Holy baby, being born in a manger.

Here’s the biblical account of the true magic of Christmas – Jesus’ birth from the book of Luke, chapter 2. 3

 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Sources:

  1. Chris Lites. The sheer brilliance of Hallmark’s corny Christmas movies by. December 17, 2015. http://theweek.com/articles/591033/sheer-brilliance-hallmarks-corny-christmas-movies. Accessed 12/22/2015.
  2. Cathy Sikorski, Humorist, Author, Lawyer. “11 Reasons to Watch Hallmark Christmas Movies.” The Huffington Post, December 21, 2015. 3.   https://www.biblegateway.com/ Luke 2:4-20.
  3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cathy-sikorski/11-reasons-to-watch-hallmark-christmas-movies_b_8851380.html. Accessed 12/22/20015.
  4. Image. Christmasmagic [Google Images] Hallmark Original Movie, 2011.

 

 

Christmas Books for Children

Are you looking for Christmas books for your children or grandchildren that tell the real meaning of Christmas? I enjoy creating a Christmas Book List for my readers.Last year I only found a few new books I liked.

I’ve loved cats since I was four-years-old so its no surprise I was drawn to The Stable Cat’s Christmas. This Christmas story is written from the stable cat’s perspective. A number of books feature animals sharing the birth of Jesus from their view but I particularly like this one because it’s a kitty. You can’t go wrong with that.

You can access the list of Christmas books that features the book’s cover, information about the book as well as a brief description of the book. I know you’ll enjoy the list with over 35 Christmas books for children.

You can access the list here. http://fromdiaperstodiamonds.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Childrens-Christmas-Books-Updated-Nov-30-2017.pdf

Christmas Toys for Endless Fun

ted-the-bear-3-1367103 [freeimages.com]Are you still shopping for Christmas toys? Are you overwhelmed with so many toys to choose from? Do you want something kids won’t toss aside after a few weeks? Here are some tips on buying toys for endless fun.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a toy, such as safety, the child’s interests, durability, and your budget. Because toys are already subject to safety tests, my best advice is to purchase developmentally age-appropriate, open-ended toys. What do all these words mean?

Developmentally Appropriate

Age-appropriate means the toy matches the child’s developmental level. Children generally develop within a predictable sequence, but some develop earlier while others develop later. For example, some children walk before one year while others walk after one year.

Age Suggestions & Safety

All toy manufacturers must indicate age suggestions on the packaging, such as six to twelve months, three to five-years, etc. Parents and grandparents are often tempted to purchase toys that are intended for older children because the child is “so smart.” The child may be bright, but the manufacturer suggestions provide the best safety for children. For example, preschool toys may have smaller pieces that would be unsafe for toddlers.

Variety, Creativity & Budget-friendly

Alongside choosing age-appropriate toys, choose toys that are open-ended. This means toys that provide different ways children can play with them. A jack-in-the-box is a closed-ended toy. There is only one way to play with a jack-in-the-box, over, and over, and over again. Open-ended toys offer more variety and creativity. A jack-in-the-box will be interesting for awhile, but open-ended toys can provide fun for several years. This makes open-ended toys more cost effective and budget friendly.

Endless Possibilities

Open-ended toys offer children endless play possibilities. Items children can build with or create anything they want are ideal for their imaginations. Possibilities include dress-up clothes, wooden blocks, Duplos, Legos, Lincoln Logs, Mega blocks, and magnetic blocks. One day children create a zoo and dress up as a zoo keeper while another time they construct a ferry. Open-ended toys facilitate endless possibilities for fun.

 

Image: ted-the-bear-3-1367103 [freeimages.com]

 

A Glimmer of Hope at Thanksgiving

I recently flew home after spending a special week in Missouri with my daughter, son-in-law, and two oldest grands, Parker and Khloe. I will see them again for Christmas so that made leaving a little easier.

In my Facebook posts, I’ve been asking for prayer for my brain function for several months. On my trip home I experienced a glimmer of hope. Here are a few snippets.

In the TSA line I talk with a fellow traveler about waiting in lines. He says, “I threw everything in my luggage. I hope nothing falls out.”

“Are you traveling unexpectedly?” I ask.

“No. I was running late with errands and lost track of time. I barely got packed in time to leave.”

As I walk to the United gate at the Tulsa Oklahoma airport, I chat with a family traveling to Washington. The dad says, “Our three-year-old daughter is going to meet her sister today.”

“That’s really special. How old is she?” I ask.

“She’s 18 months. We’ve been waiting for years.”

“What a wonderful Thanksgiving gift. Blessings and have a Happy Thanksgiving,” I say.

On the plane I chitchat with a young lady in the window seat. “Where’s Oral Roberts University? I can’t remember.”

“In Tulsa. I’m flying to Colorado Springs for Thanksgiving. I transferred from a community college and now I’m a junior majoring in English. I plan to become a high school teacher.”

“That’s great. We need excellent Christian teachers.” Just as we land I ask, “Is your fiancé picking you up?”

“No, he has to work. My parents are picking me up.”

Bummer, I think. Waiting until January 2020 to get married must be hard. When I leave the plane I say, “Blessings on your wedding and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.”

These may seem like meaningless conversations, but to me they represent a glimmer of hope. When my brain functions poorly I move into introvert mode to automatically conserve brain energy. That means no unnecessary conversations. Whether I’m in public waiting in a grocery store line, in an airport, or at home, I don’t voluntarily speak. It’s the most challenging aspect of my disability. When my brain function is the worst, I can go weeks without carrying on conversations. I don’t even talk to my Cali kitty.

After living for eight years with my brain disabiity I still I don’t recognize myself. My God-given personality is an extrovert. I talk and talk and then talk some more. There are no strangers in my extrovert world. I’ve been talking since I was a toddler. My mom told me, “The other pre-school moms loved to talk to you. Your language was fascinating to them.”

On my trip home I’m thankful. God gave me a glimpse of my former self.

The flight attendant hands me a Diet Coke and cup with ice. “Have you been super busy?” I ask.

He sighs. His face says it all. “I get to be home for Thanksgiving.”

“Where’s home?”

“In Denver. I fly right back here from SFO and then I’m off.”

“Enjoy your family. I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve initiated conversations with strangers. I don’t know if I’ll have another good day tomorrow, but I’m thankful for the blessings of today. They offer me a glimmer of hope.

 

Create Bonds: Reducing Negative Peer Pressure

Create Bonds

Another tip to help reduce peer pressure is to create strong bonds with your children long before the adolescent years. With adolescence right around the corner, the school age years are a perfect time for strengthening the bonds you established in early childhood.

“The strength of a child’s relationship with his or her family will directly impact on whether peer pressure will be a productive or destructive influence in the child’s life.” 1

Family Night

Having a regular family night is one way to spend special time with your children. Let them take turns choosing a fast-food restaurant for dinner or take-out and then play games at home or watch a special movie. If you can’t afford to eat dinner out, make a special treat, like caramel popcorn or hot chocolate.

Meals

Eating meals together is one of the best strategies for building relationships. The older children get, the more challenging this becomes. Make it a priority to eat a certain number of meals together each week. It doesn’t have to be dinner. It could be a combination of breakfast, lunch and/or dinner times. You may need to juggle schedules and meal times, but the benefits outweigh the challenges. Implementing this tip gets parents on track for helping their school age children reduce negative peer pressure.

Sources:

  1. Adolescent Rebellion Can be Quelled, www.kidsgrowth.com/resources/articledetail
  2. Image: Together_(4739023417) [commons.wikimedia.org]

Teach Your Children: Reducing Negative Peer Pressure

When parents consider school-age peer pressure, perhaps they imagine the ways the child himself must resist the pressure. Although we’ll look at the child’s role in a later blog, there are parental roles that help reduce negative peer pressure for their school age children.

Teach Your Children

A great principal for reducing negative peer pressure for school age children is to teach your children. When do you teach them? I think of it as “way of life” teaching. As you go through each day, as you walk through life, you are using every day opportunities and examples to teach your children about life and what is important.

Principle

In the book in the Bible called Deuteronomy, there’s a verse I use to support this concept. Deuteronomy 11:19 instructs, “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” 1

When Do You Teach?

Basically, you are teaching your children when you’re at home, while you’re out and about, when they go to bed, and after they get up. If you take advantage of these various times, you’ll discover many opportunities for teaching your children. You can teach them as you drive them to and from activities or attending church, school, and community events together as a family while you’re participating in community service projects.

Helping Others

As you share your time, talents, and resources with non-profit organizations that address social issues, you’re teaching your children about helping others, the value of community service, and giving.

Role Modeling

You are also teaching them by your example. Do your words encourage and build others up or for gossiping and criticism? Can your children repeat your language or do you use swear words and tell them only adults can use these words? How do you treat your friends, the pregnant teenager, the elderly, those who have less than you do, and the homeless woman on the street corner? Do you instruct them not to use drugs while you drink and smoke? Be mindful that little ones are watching your examples.

 

Sources:

  • New American Standard Bible
  • Image: Children_marbles [en.wikipedia.org]

 

 

Peer Pressure: 5 to 8 Year Olds

8-hands-1285842-s

“Be who you are and say what you feel,

because those who mind don’t matter

and those who matter don’t mind.” —Dr. Seuss

Since school age children are experiencing peer pressure, what does it look like? You may hear a child say, “If you’re my friend, you’ll play this game with me,” or “I’m mad at _______, so don’t talk to her.” Peers may pressure a child to ride their bikes too far from home or play with a gun. They may think it is funny to cut people out of the group or make fun of someone for any number of reasons. (1)

Positive Peer Pressure But peer pressure isn’t all negative. Dr. Melanie Killen, a developmental psychologist at the University of Maryland found, “The emergence of peer groups in elementary school also aids children’s development by providing positive friendships, relationships, and social support.” (2)

Pleasing Others Children ages 5 to 8 make a concerted effort to please their friends, classmates, and playmates, which is one reason this age can be so enjoyable. A positive aspect of peer pressure is that they can encourage each other to strive to do better in school, sports and creative activities. On the other hand, if the child acts in a way that is not natural for the child, this can be negative peer pressure. (3)

Why Children Give In The reasons school-age children give in to peer pressure aren’t much different than the reasons adolescents or even adults fall into peer pressure. They want to be liked and fit in. And who doesn’t want that? They worry that others kids may make fun of them. Perhaps the child is simply curious and wants to try something new.

Experimenting The common saying, “Everyone’s doing it,” influences some kids to ignore their better judgment or their common sense. (3) The child may be trying to figure out who he is by experimenting with his identity. (4) Parents may observe their child changing hair styles or hair color and wearing different clothing styles.

Be aware It is important for parents to be aware of what peer pressure looks like for school age children and remember that peer pressure can have many positive aspects. As you help your child develop socially, remember the reasons that they may fall into peer pressure.

Sources:

1. Peer Proofing Your Child-Teen, Part 5, By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT, 2006, www.familiesonlinemagazne.com/peerpressure/peerproofing5.html. Accessed 10/2/2013.

2. Younger Than You Think: Peer Pressure Begins in Elementary School, Rick Nauert, Ph.D., June 6, 2013, www.psychcentral.com. Accessed 10/5/2013.

3. Children’s Health: Peer Pressure, www.healthofchildren.com. Accessed 10/5/2013.

4. The Influence of Peer Pressure: Help Your Child Navigate Through Peer Pressure, Gwen Morrison, family.go.com. Accessed 10/5/2013.

Signs Your Child Has a Bad Teacher

empty_classroom freeimages.com 284164

Your kids started the school-year not that long ago. Yet your child is already complaining. Is the problem your child or the teacher?

Although children can create behavioral challenges, teachers can also instigate problems. Your child may complain that the teacher yells. A teacher who yells is out of control. The louder the students, the more the teacher yells and grows angry.

Yelling and Fear

This can create fear in some children, not to mention being poor teaching practice. My daughter complained about this one year, but when I helped in her classroom, the teacher raised her voice slightly in a stern voice. My daughter perceived that as yelling. However, typically when children report yelling, the teacher is out of control.

Softer and Quieter

Good teachers know that the noisier students get, the quieter the teacher’s voice gets. A “look” works better than a raised voice. The teacher also gets closer to the disruptive students. For example, a group in the back is rowdy. The teacher walks near the group and softly says, “I need this group to stop talking and listen.” Most of the remainder of the class doesn’t even hear and class goes on.

Negative Treatment

If your child complains about how the teacher treats students, the teacher may be labeling or embarrassing children. Such actions as put-downs, belittling, sarcasm, labeling “stupid” or “slow,” or making fun of children are all completely unacceptable and demonstrate a lack of respect for children.

Teaching Styles

Teachers have different teaching styles that your child may need to adjust to; however, being treated disrespectfully is one of the most common ways the teacher is the problem. Maybe the teacher refuses to model the lesson more than once.

What’s the Real Story?

If you sense there is a problem, don’t go to the principal or the school board. Speak directly to the teacher. If it is still unresolved, you can then ask to speak to the teacher’s supervisor. Remember, you always want to get both sides of the story. By listening to both your child and the teacher, you can obtain accurate information. Then you’re prepared to make the best decisions for your child.

 

Image Source: empty_classroom 284164 [freeimages.com]

Preschoolers and Choices

As a college professor, I chose what committees I happily wanted to serve on. If the college dictated which committees I must be on, I wouldn’t have been happy.

What about you? Do you serve well if you have choices or have choices made for you?

Our preschoolers are no different. They too like to have control. Giving them the power to choose encourages autonomy (independence) while minimizing conflict.

Choices Can Begin Early

Choices can actually begin when babies become toddlers. Simply asking, “Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the green shirt today?” as you hold up the items provides a choice. A toddler can point which empowers them.

This or That?

Limiting choices helps preschoolers select. Many restaurant menus offer innumerable choices that sometimes overwhelm adults. Instead of asking your preschoolers, “What do you want?” ask, “Would you like chicken bites or a grilled cheese sandwich? Do you want milk or juice?” If the preschoolers are verbal, have the children order their own food.

More Choices Examples

Here are some more ways to give children choices. Instead of asking, “Do you want to take a nap?” (Why do parents ask this?) Inquire, “Do you want to nap with your teddy bear blanket or your doggie blanket?” When it’s cold outside, don’t ask, “Do you want to wear your jacket?” ask, “Do you want to put your shoes on first or your jacket?” After preschoolers make decisions based on two choices, gradually increase the number of choices. For example, “Do you want raisins, a granola bar, or yogurt for snack?”

You’ll discover that your preschoolers do better with choices just like we do.

Image Source: Stick_figure_choice [wikimediacommons.org]

The Power of Childhood Friendships

By Andrea Williams with quotes from Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D.
Posted on: Daily Parent, August 1, 2014

Expert insight into the power of childhood friendships, for better or worse, and how to nurture friend-making skills.

Some of us can still fondly remember long summer days and recess hours spent with our closest pals, making mud pies, catching ladybugs and generally having lots of fun. As it turns out, the effects of those adolescent friendships last well into adulthood.

“Being chosen [as a friend] makes a child or teen feel affirmed, and it also expands their horizon beyond the narrow world of their nuclear family,” says Dr. Jan Yager, Ph.D., author of When Friendship Hurts. “The child or teen can become friends with someone of a different race, religion, culture or socio-economic background since their siblings will most likely be very similar to them. Friendships outside of siblings expand a child or teen’s horizons and view of the world and other families besides their own.”

Conversely, not learning to develop solid friendships can negatively affect a child’s future, as Yager notes that kids who spend too much time alone can become lonely teens and adults and even begin to develop signs of depression. Truly, we live in an interconnected world, and whether it relates to effectively completing group assignments in high school or college, or securing a job post-graduation and being able to work collaboratively with colleagues, it’s important that we encourage our children to develop strong, meaningful friendships. Here’s how:

Teach kids how to be good friends.

Anyone who’s had a relationship with an overly needy or inconsiderate person knows that being a great friend to others has become a bit of a lost art. Teach your kids now how to treat others well, and you won’t ever have to worry about them being alone later. “Kids can learn to model great friendships when they are given the tools for experiencing empathy,” says parenting expert Natalie Blais. “The power of empathy has a deep and lasting impression on kids because they are not yet clouded with disappointment like adults are. Kids are constantly filled with wonder when it comes to emotion, and empathy is an experience kids must learn to master.”

Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D, an education and child development expert agrees, adding that it is up to parents to model the kind of behavior that they expect their kids to develop. “Role modeling is significant,” she says. “How parents interact with their children and their children’s friends helps them learn positive friendship skills. For example, if friends come over, the parent may suggest, ‘Emily, maybe your friends would like a snack. I can help you.’ Over time, sharing a snack becomes automatic.”

Encourage kids to seek out children who need friends.

Though cell phones have replaced land lines, and kids may actually spend more time communicating with each other via social media than face-to-face, little else has changed in the world of childhood friendships. On any playground across the country, you’re likely to find a group or clique, of popular, outgoing kids along with a smattering of quiet, more introverted kids who hang solo.

“My son is going into third grade in September, and we spent the entire year of second grade learning how to find kids who need someone to be a friend to them,” says Blais. “At the end of each day, I ask my son if he had the opportunity to be kind to someone that day. I make sure I have him consistently thinking about and looking for the chance to be kind to someone and reach out to him. Often, parents ask their kids how the day was, but they rarely ask their kids how they genuinely plugged into the situation around them and searched out the kids who needed them most.”

Get involved.

If your child is introverted, it’s important that you step in and help her begin to interact with others. The key, though, is not to push her too far outside of her comfort zone. “Years ago it was believed that children develop a temperament by age 3, but most research shows that children are born with an individual temperament,” Fritzemeier explains. “Some will be naturally outgoing and noisy, while others may be quiet and reserved. Parents who push their children to become someone they are not only increases the children’s stress levels, but as children get older, she can begin to question if her parents want them to be more like them or a sibling.”

Yager suggests parents arrange playdates for their kids (even through the elementary years) and enroll preschool-aged children in classes like Mommy and Me or Gymboree to help foster new friendships. Additionally, adds Fritzemeier, bringing a toy or pet can serve as an icebreaker and help draw other kids to your child. Also, when choosing other children to arrange playdates with, it’s important to try to find kids whose temperaments match that of your child, so she is not overwhelmed by an outgoing or boisterous personality.

Intervene when necessary.

Eventually, as your child ages and becomes more adept at interacting with others, she is bound to get involved in an unhealthy friendship. Parents, then, must toe the line between allowing their kids to be proactive in choosing their own relationships while also protecting them from significant hurt or danger. “Being a parent means taking the time to get to know the kids your child is spending time with,” says Dr. Tina Tessina, Ph.D., LMFT. You need to know their parents and hang out with them. Driving [your children’s friends] places and listening to what they talk about in the car while you’re driving is a great way to get a sense of who they are. This is most easily done while your kids are small; once they’re teens, you have a lot less control.”

If you do discover that your child is hanging out with someone she shouldn’t, Tessina suggests deftly steering her toward more positive influences without damaging your relationship with your child. “It’s best not to say bad things about the friends you don’t like; it will set you and your children against each other,” she explains. “This is why it’s so important to pay attention early on: you want to intervene before your child is too attached to someone. The best tactic is to find something your child is interested in and allow her to get involved, and distract your child from the undesirable friends. It also helps to find out what your child is getting out of the friendship. Is there some kind of acceptance for something you child feels bad about? Perhaps there’s something you don’t understand.”

Ultimately, though, if you’ve taken the time to show your child how to be a good friend and helped her to develop solid friendships while she’s young, you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

Adds Tessina, “If you set up a good parameter, you can let your child make choices, because there won’t be any bad ones.”

Published in: dailyparent.com/articles/the-power-of-childhood-friendships