For most of us, pandemic parenting has tapped us and sapped us, drawing out our creativity and testing our strength and resilience. As we head into December and the winter ahead, here are a few articles that you might find helpful or, at the very least, hopeful.
Motivation is often a struggle, and heading into the winter months, some teens may find it even more difficult to find the "umph" to stay focused and organized. Lisa Damour shares a few tips for building internal motivation -- and for drawing on external motivation when necessary (including my favorite study strategy: The Pomodoro Technique!). She writes:
Adults often have refined strategies for getting through our work and, as a first step, we should talk openly with teenagers about the tactics we employ when intrinsic motivation isn’t happening.
Also, teens and parents can think together about strategies to help face down a long list of assignments. Would it help to have a parent work quietly nearby in silent solidarity? Would the teenager like to study in 25-minute intervals followed by five-minute breaks to stretch, snack or check social media? Might the promise of getting to pick the weekend family movie make that last bit of work more bearable?
Adults should be ready to stand back and admire the fantastic solutions that young people land upon themselves. Some adolescents buckle down with the help of a YouTube study buddy, others hold out the carrot of a video game or run once the work is done.
I recently learned of a 10th-grader who makes time-lapse videos of herself while she does her homework. Knowing that she’s on camera keeps her focused, and having a record of her efforts (and the amusing faces she makes while concentrating) turns out to be a powerful reward. While intrinsic motivation has its upsides, there should be no shame in the external motivation game. It’s about getting the work done.
In my house, some of our favorite holiday traditions can't happen this year -- so we are creating new ones. And they are all about kindness. As I write:
Have you ever watched a young child make plans to do something purposefully kind for someone else — like bring a homemade gift to a teacher or a get-well card for a friend? Have you watched how they grow excited with anticipation of giving their gift? Kindness can feel like a celebration. This year, I think we could all use a little more kindness and celebration. So I’m taking a page out of my friend’s book as I think about the upcoming holidays. After all, traditions start somewhere, and old ones can evolve to match changing circumstances.
Click on the article to read 30 Kindness Ideas for Kids.
There's a lot of pressure to be merry during the holiday season, but it's also a time when we can be acutely reminded of the absence of loved ones. I talked to grief researcher Hope Edelman about "Holiday Syndrome" and how we can help our kids "turn an absence into a presence":
The sadness we may feel in the holiday season reminds us that “we're longing for a connection” said Edelman, so one way that families can navigate these feelings is to look for creative ways to stay connected to those we have lost.
Turning someone's “absence into presence” can give kids a sense of comfort. Because holidays are a time of traditions, “one thing that parents can do for kids is to find a way to work the person who has died into the holiday celebrations.”
This might look like cooking one of grandma’s or grandpa’s special recipes, lighting a candle in someone’s memory, or telling stories about a loved one around the Thanksgiving table. It may also look like carrying on one of their favorite traditions, or (if those no longer fit) it might look like creating a new tradition in their honor. As Edelman said, “Rituals give kids a feeling that they belong to something larger than themselves.” One family I know has turned the November anniversary of their son’s passing into a community “day of kindness.” As the mother describes it, “What was once the worst day of our lives has become a day of kindness, where we opt to spread light and love a little bit extra.”
Remembering loved ones and incorporating them into the holiday season often makes us feel better “because we are not trying to suppress those feelings of love or longing or missing,” said Edelman “We're saying, ‘Let's find a way to make [our loved one] part of the holidays.’
In the last year, have you or your children taken up any new hobbies? Last week, I taught my kids how to make origami paper cranes (one of my favorite activities from my childhood), and we have been working on making dozens of them to string and give away. Dr. Perri Klass writes beautifully about how knitting -- like an active meditation -- has helped her find peace and intergenerational connection.
I need to be in the moment, but I also need the future and the past. I’m doing a few inches every day now on the scarf for my daughter, and I have another ball of variegated velour, also from New Orleans, to make one for my son. I will feel the yarn in my fingers, I will be in the moment, but I will also be in those past moments, with the people I love most, moving through a world we want to see again. I’m going for completion.
As we head into winter months, perhaps there's some hobby -- something active -- that you and your kids can explore together. Baking something from The Great British Baking Show? Digitizing old family photos (or turning digital photos into books)? Quilting? Hiking? Bird-watching? Making music together? These activities ground us and make memories in a way that scrolling through social media feeds simply cannot.