Category Archives: Family Life

Family Mission Statement and Talking About Sex…

So we worked on our family mission statement this weekend, and I read the Bruce Feiler chapter about talking to your kids about sex.

We’re enjoying taking the mission (he calls it branding) slowly… what do we stand for, really?  What are the most important things to all of us?  When my J. and I talked about this before, our kids were younger and not part of our conversation.  Now that we all have something to bring to the table, it feels more important, and better.

*EPIPHANY!*  At dinner this evening we were talking about the words that represented our family.  It was an okay conversation, but then I had an epiphany.  I asked my daughters, “How would you want to describe us to, let’s say, a friend from college who can’t go home for Thanksgiving.  How would you want to complete this… “Come to our house… it’s _______; for Thanksgiving we always ________; my mom ___________; my dad _____________.”  Then our talk really evolved.

As for the sex chapter– the basic premise is what I’ve always suggested. Here is a link to all the places sex appears on my website.

And now, I’m feeling like the Secrets of Happy Families blog posts are coming to an end.  I’ll check back in on them now and again.  I would really suggest, if you feel like you’ve had your fill of parenting books, or if you are looking for one, that this is healthy part of a parenting library.  Even if you feel your “parenting booked out” I would add this one to the shelf.

How are you going to greet your child today?

Whether you are picking up from school, coming home after a day at work, or something in between, that moment when you reconnect with your child is powerful.  Look into his eyes, give a big smile, a hug, a hair ruffle— something that brings you both into a moment where, even for a second, you are the only two people who exist.

When I sent my last newsletter, I let everyone know that my mother was very ill.   Thank you to everyone who emailed to let me know you were thinking of me.  Sadly, my mom died a bit later in the summer.  When I think about my moments of reconnection with her, from our whole life, they bring a warmth to my heart.  I remember her stepping out of the car on my first visiting day at sleep-away camp as clearly as her smile when I would arrive at the house this summer and lean over the bed to kiss her hello.

I want my children to feel my love and support throughout their entire lives.  Being confident about what I do every day to find that balance and create those relationships keeps me grounded.

So start small—start with your moments of hello.

Are you having fun yet?

The other night I was re-reading parts of Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson’s book, The Whole Brain Child, and I was struck by how theoretical and practical it was (so my style!).  While I read it originally in October, I’ve kept it out and around- it’s that kind of book.  With cartoons giving examples of typical adult-child interactions, and ones written to read with kids, so they can start to understand how their brain really works, this book reminds us that there is the oh so important WHEN that comes before WHAT we say and HOW we say it.

One of the sections towards the end is all about family fun—how having fun experiences together taps into the brain’s desire to connect.  Our brains are social, they are “wired for we”.  I’ll take this a step further and add that the more fun our children have with us, the less they will look for extra fun outside the family, especially as they get older, especially into their teen years. When we have fun with our families, we are helping all our brains feel good about being together.

“Your brain cells receive what some people call “dopamine squirts” when something pleasurable happens to you, and it motivates you to want it to do it again.” (p.132)

This is why your child likes to play the same game, even though she knows the outcome.  Combine this with “wired for we” and we know why kids, and us, like being with our friends. This is why you feel good when you giggle and laugh.  This is why we can’t let days or weeks go by letting our day to day responsibilities prevent us from relaxing into casual fun, or planning big fun.

So, even though you already know that it’s good to have fun with your family, now we know what’s going on in our brains when we have that fun.  Last challenge, to make sure we’re actually having it!  Our days can be filled with a lot of getting from here to there, spending time in scheduled or structured activities, going places we need to go… are you having as much fun as you would like?

Easy ways to have fun on a regular day—eat part of a meal picnic style, or under the table for a change… have a dance party, take movies of each other or photos making silly faces, making up new words to a familiar song… with regular activities such as bath-time you can pretend to be different animals, or anything that seems funny and different.

And, for those of you with more than one child—this detail felt especially great.  “Recent studies have found that the best predictor for good sibling relationships in later life is how much fun the kids have together when they are young.” (p.133)  Statistics come and go, but I think it would be hard to dispute this.  Creating space for siblings to have really fun play, to be off on their own, to get messy—those moments are critical for their bonding.

It may seem silly that we have to remember to make time for laughter and for fun, but for many of us a reminder comes in handy.

December is one of my favorite times of the year.

It’s a time of giving and receiving;  a time of seeing excess and great need.  This is your time to show children what’s important to you, and your family.

For me, walking with my children through the streets has that special winter feel.  The smells of Christmas Trees and hot apple cider at the market, choosing gifts for special people in our lives, and having more time to spend together are some of the things I like best.  For some kids just being awake when it’s dark is super exciting—we’re always looking for the moon on the way home for dinner.

How can you bring your own meaning to this busy time of year?

Create opportunities to give to people you know—depending upon their age, involve kids as much as possible with preparing gifts for relatives and friends, especially siblings and parents if that’s appropriate.  If you are writing cards with tips for people, you can talk about what you are doing, “We’re giving Patrick, our UPS delivery man, a present to say “Thank you for being so extra helpful and friendly throughout the year, and for making the effort to come back when I haven’t been home.”  (And we really are!)

Create opportunities to give to people you don’t know—while this is a time many charities are in great need, the entire year presents the same issue.  Perhaps over vacation you can research together a charity with a personal connection—have a child who likes to read?  Together you might want to choose a charity where you donate books to classrooms.  From art, to music, to sports, there are other children out there who need.

If your family sends holiday cards, maybe you can make some time for personal messages from your children to their friends or people who are important to them.  Depending upon their age you can take dictation, they can write something short, or even just their name.  It helps solidify what you are doing and why.  One hint—supervise in case of too much improvisation… we lost a few cards due to excessive xx’s and oo’s written by a zealous 5 year old…

Are traditions emerging in your family?  This season start to notice, and next year you can continue the ones you like, and skip the ones you don’t.  Not finding any?  What a perfect opportunity to create some.  Whether it’s a trip to a skating rink, New Year’s Eve with friends, a certain night of Chanukah to give to someone else, a Christmas present bought for a child who might not otherwise have one– the possibilities are endless.