CREATIVE IDEAS FOR HOW TO SPEND HOLIDAYS WITH YOUR FAMILY: PART 2

by Milena Ćuk, Life Coach and Integrative Art Therapist-in-Training

LET’S SING AND PERFORM!

No celebration is complete without music!

When you’re together, you can sing Christmas songs – or any other songs that you like! When everyone is present, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, it’s always interesting to spot the intergenerational differences in the songs that are selected. If you’re feeling especially bold, you can also organize a karaoke party.

Don’t forget to record the moment, by making videos or taking photos. You’ll capture funny moments and laugh together for days! Teenagers will love recording video on mobile phones. However, these days, children are exposed to gadgets from such an early age that even younger children are skillful enough with cameras that they too could help with recording your event.

Another activity that you can add to singing is this: Each of you can choose a favorite song and prepare choreography. Then, you can make the decoration for the stage, adjust the lights and start your own family show! You perform one by one, cheering and laughing. This is especially good if you’re recording video of each performance.

In the end, you’ll all be dancing in your own home party! Put on your dancing shoes and turn on a disco ball, if you have one – if not, improvise!

Christmas dance

via Youtube

PICTURING YOUR FUTURE, AND YOUR PRESENT

As the last month of the year, December is an ideal time to wrap up the current year, and make some plans for the next one. Use the time around the holidays to reflect on your current situation in life, and consider your values, and desired long-term life goals.

By practicing these activities with children or showing them examples with your own behavior, we can include them in these traditions, and, at the same time, help them prepare to make plans and decisions for themselves as grown-ups.

People often make a list of New Year’s resolutions. However, here, we’ll give you some ideas of how you can present your resolutions using images. Although these suggested activities are suitable for adults and older children, you can adjust them so that they will work with younger children as well. Also, you can still do these in January, if you don’t manage to get to them in December.

  1. Holding the past and future, in your hands

Future hands

via Cynthia Emerlye

In this activity adapted from art therapy first trace the shapes of both hands on a piece of letter-sized paper. Fill the shape of your left hand with the main accomplishments, experiences or feelings that have marked this past year. It’s best to express these things in drawings and colors, but you can use words as well. When you have completed the current year, shift your focus to the shape of your right hand. Fill the empty shape with your strongest desires and goals that you will work on during the coming year.

When you are done, share your work with others. Older teenagers can be sensitive regarding their privacy issues; so, they may be reluctant to participate in this activity with you. However, you can still encourage them to do the activity alone or with their friends. Also, when it comes to sharing, everybody can choose whether and how much to share. Sometimes, we forget important and good things that we have done and this activity can show us how good it is to be reminded.

  1. Vision Board

Vision board

via Milena Ćuk

The power of the imagination has found its place in the therapeutic process as well in the strategies we employ in making our dreams come true. Instead of making a list of goals for the next year, sit for a while, relax, and get in touch with yourself.

Ask yourself what it looks like for you to feel fulfilled and happy. Imagine. Where are you? What are you doing? Who is with you? What are the most important aspects of your life you want to present through this collage – and imagine scenes as if they are already happening in the way you want. If you are making a poster for the next year, put all these scenes together with next year in mind.

A poster showing your resolutions expressed through pictures can take many forms, sizes, and shapes. Gather some magazines, brochures and other printed sources. Start looking for the pictures that represent the closest to what you have in mind. When you cut out the pictures, attach them with glue to the blank paper or poster. You can also use Pinterest or other sources on the Internet to find even more images for this activity.

Vision board

via Milena Ćuk

Sometimes, you don’t have a clear vision of what you want. If this is the case, search for the pictures that are most attractive to you. In either case, avoid ambiguous representations or negative symbols. For instance, if you want to achieve success in school, find an education-related picture that motivates you.

Make a nice, relaxing atmosphere where everybody will have the opportunity to work individually and to interact with others. After the activity is completed, you can all share and discuss what you have created. The same rule applies here – everybody can choose what and how much to share.

Did you like the ideas that we have prepared for you? Share pictures if you tried some of these! Also, inspire us with the creative activities that you enjoyed with your family!

CREATIVE IDEAS FOR HOW TO SPEND HOLIDAYS WITH YOUR FAMILY: PART 1

by Milena Ćuk, Life Coach and Integrative Art Therapist-in-Training

So, once again, we’ve made it to the holiday season! Happy Holidays!

There are so many reasons to embrace and cherish the holidays, but, first and foremost, the holidays are a perfect time for families to spend quality time together. Many of you probably have your own family rituals such as decorating the Christmas tree and your home, making gifts and holiday cards together, dining together, making a snowman, creating resolutions for the new year, and maybe even starting a small snowball fight. Whatever the tradition, the holidays are a time for togetherness.

In this article, we will share some ideas related to creative joint activities that you can do at home that you can add to your family traditions. There’s no need to point out how activities performed as a family are paramount in strengthening the bonds within families and for nurturing healthy relationships.

In creating our list, we considered the spirit and meaning of Christmas and the New Year and aimed to offer something creative, to cover (and combine) different forms of expression and to find activities in which all family members can participate. And we considered fun too, of course. 🙂

Some activities that we suggest here are suitable for toddlers and younger children; others are very good for teenagers. You, as parents, can easily participate in all of them. We recommend that you and your family review the activities and select the ones most appealing to you so that nobody feels forced to participate. We created this list to inspire you. We hope that, in reviewing it, you’ll come up with even more ideas.

ACTIVITIES FOR AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE

The Christmas tree in your home is a great motivator to use when planning activities with your preschooler or toddler. Using your Christmas tree, you can employ simple techniques to develop your child’s imagination and motor skills.

  1. Christmas tree craft and matching game

For this activity, you’ll need paper (card stock or cardboard), scissors, glitter glue, and supplies for coloring and decorating: permanent markers, washi tape, watercolor paints, tempera, oil pastels, etc.

This activity is especially good for families with small children where each of you can create several trees with different designs. An added benefit, the trees you make for this matching game can also be used to decorate your home, or even to use on Christmas-themed hats! We’re sure there are more uses for these trees; let us know if you come up with some!

To make the trees, start by drawing a simple triangle on a piece of card stock or cardboard. Make sure to let your children do this – the shape doesn’t have to be perfect! Let them experiment with colors and materials you have prepared so that they create their own designs. Glitter glue, tempera, and the other materials are best applied by hand. Don’t worry about dirty hands – children love sensory activities – not to mention a little bit of mess!

easy-christmas-tree-craft-for-preschool-11

via Nurture Store

For the matching game – simply cut several trees in half and lay all the pieces out, in a jumbled arrangement. Ask a child to find each of the matching pairs. This is a good activity for toddlers to look carefully and spot similarities and differences.

christmas-tree-matching-game-1

via Nurture Store

  1. Christmas tree balancing activity

christmas-activities-balance-pin-1

via The Inspired Treehouse

This activity is good for developing balance, motor skills, coordination, and the core strength of your kids. Even more importantly, it is easy to set up!

You will need green painter’s tape, paper or yarn-wrapped ornaments (you can make them easily during preparation activities), and a paper star.

First, create a large Christmas tree on the floor in an open space, using the painter’s tape. Place the ornaments in a pile at the bottom of the tree and create the rules for the game. It’s more fun if you are part of the game and if there is more than one child participating since it is a good opportunity to practice teamwork.

It’s easiest if you have the kids take turns squatting or bending to pick up an ornament and then walking along the trunk and branches of the tree (being sure to keep their balance!) until they find the spot they want to decorate.

You can always add or change instructions depending on your kids’ ages and to keep them focused.

  1. Easy Ripped Paper Tree Craft

tree-pin-1

via TOTS Family

For this activity, you only need construction paper and glue sticks. It’s ideal for toddlers and younger kids since you don’t need scissors and they’ll love the paper tearing! And, they’ll get to practice their fine motor skills. Of course, older children and parents can have fun as well with this creative activity!

A FAMILY PICTURE, WITH SOME HUMOR

Nowadays, making family photos is easier than ever. However, you can make it even more fun by adding some acting and hand-made details to the process. Also, don’t discount the old-school value of depicting your family through drawings since this nurtures our imaginations and subjective perceptions of each other.

  1. No ordinary Christmas photo shoot!

a15b617d210bc34f809beefe6910d743

via Pinterest

Forget about posing! Why not make funny facial expressions with hand-made Christmas symbols instead?

For this very important family photo shoot, you’ll have to make some preparations. Prior to the shoot, organize a workshop to create the props that you will use. You’ll need cardboard, scissors, markers, tape or glue, glitter, and sticks. You can always add other material for even more decoration ideas – be creative!

With the children, make some Christmas symbols from the cardboard such as reindeer horns, Santa’s hat, Rudolph’s nose, Santa’s beard, a snowflake, etc. After you have created your decoration, attach a stick to each item. You can also create some colorful and shiny Christmas glasses to wear too!

christmas photo

via Pinterest

Now, you’re ready and the photo shoot can begin! During the shoot, you can change props and even change who takes the photos. Also, you can add improvisation and acting games for making even more funny poses and facial expressions such as: Santa needs to go to the bathroom! Or, happy snowflake! And, with the glasses, you can coolly pose as Johnny Depp (or any other celebrity/character everybody is familiar with).

As your imagination unfurls, so too will other ideas for even more creative photos.

Don’t forget to tell us how your photo shoot went, and send us some photos, of course!

  1. How well do we know each other?

christmas photo shoot

via Mashable

In this family workshop, you’ll need paper and pens for each member of the family. Of course, you’ll probably want to add markers and some crayons too, for added color.

First, everyone should draw the family as they see it. Make sure to leave space in the upper part of the paper so that you can draw a speech bubble above each member of your family. Once you have everyone drawn, add the words ‘I’m dreaming of…’ at the top of the paper. Then, fill the bubbles with the rest of the words – but before you do, you’ll have to put yourself in the shoes of your loved ones.

This is a good psychological exercise to be done with teenagers and even with your partner. It’ll be interesting when you compare your answers. In this fast-paced life, sometimes we lose sight of the needs of our growing children or even the changing needs of our partners, and we consequently disconnect.

For younger children who haven’t yet learned to write, you can have them draw symbols within the speech bubbles instead of words.

Or, for a new twist, consider these themes:

My biggest fear is…

My passion is…

What I need the most in this moment is…

Whatever you decide for your theme, don’t forget to share what each of you has added, and to discuss it. You might just discover important insights and share some experiences that help you understand your family even better!

10 PRINCIPLES TO HELP PARENTS DELIVER EFFECTIVE FEEDBACK

by Milena Cuk
Life and Assertiveness Coach
Integrative Art Psychotherapist-in-training

As parents, we have a duty to prepare our children to live independently in a world where they will interact with many different types of people. To prepare them for adulthood, we must recognize the importance of providing them feedback, both positive and negative (corrective). Positive feedback, such as giving compliments, expressing affection, and acknowledging your children’s efforts and successful performances, is important in building their confidence, in helping them learn new skills and in maintaining a close and open relationship with them. Giving constructive, negative feedback is important too, in learning new skills, in learning to respect boundaries and the needs of other people. Feedback is essential for self-improvement and for the personal growth of your children.

If you have a teenager at home, you may feel frustrated or worried when faced with certain changes in his/her behavior. The transition from childhood to adulthood is a sensitive and tempestuous period of life marked with questions of self-identity, first heartbreaks, a strong need for peer approval, exploring sexuality, etc. It is a period of discovering new aspects of reality. Sometimes, these aspects include alcohol, drugs, and rebellion against authority. These can all lead to a decreasing interest in education, and, in the worst-case scenario, risky behavior or trouble with authority figures. Parents fear adolescence. As parents, you are aware that your teen must go through the process of discovering the world of adults, but you do not want him to get lost. And often, you do not know what to tell him and how to approach his questions, in order to give him enough freedom, but, at the same time, to protect him from harm.

Luckily, there are guiding principles for providing feedback that motivates. In this article, we have gathered our experience from our coaching practice to explain these essential principles and to give parents some examples of how to use them. In our practice, we encounter common dilemmas that we hear from parents and stories of difficulties that many teens face. We have found that these principles are universal and can be applied regardless of the age of your children.

Principle 1
Be realistic

From the start, you should constantly consider the demands you make of your children, and make sure that they are realistic. Sometimes, even the best-intentioned parents are too demanding, asking that their children keep tidy rooms, the best test scores in their schools, the best results on their sports teams, and that they always do what their parents ask. Don’t forget that perfection is the enemy of good. Also, teenage rebellion against social norms and authority is normal, and a phase of their development. You should not ignore the boundaries they push, but HOW you react is important. On the other hand, some parents are overprotective or overindulgent, which causes their children, when they grow up, to have difficulties coping with life’s challenges.

The demands our children face are constantly changing, with their ages, their temperaments, their capacities, and with the changes society experiences as time progresses. Our children today face different challenges, with peers, social trends, in their schools and communities, more than we did. We should try our hardest to acknowledge this.

Principle 2
Show positive attention

In our coaching practice, we see so often that parents are too busy in their lives to spend enough quality time with their children. At the same time, they still demand that their child “become somebody and something one day.” In their frustration, they focus their communication with their children solely on criticizing their “bad” behavior. Sometimes, parents’ fears about their children’s bad behavior are self-fulfilling. The child, receiving ever-increasing amounts of criticism, reacts with even more “inappropriate” behavior in a quest to seek attention from the parents (“look at me!”) even if all he will get is negative attention, in the form of criticism and punishment. Sometimes, they see negative attention as better than no attention at all.

Children need to be loved and accepted by their parents. It is important to show them a “daily dose” of smiles, warm eye contact, and physical contact, such as touches and hugs. Children need their parents to listen to them and take an interest in their lives. Children need compliments and praise too. In our busy lives, feelings of love and affection between family members often go unspoken. “I love you”, “I am so happy to have you as my daughter/son”, “I like you the way you are”, “I believe in you!” – are strong messages that build the foundation of your child’s stability, self-confidence, and trust. These messages need to be heard over and over.

Principle 3
Praise honestly

When you praise your children, focus on the positive, and be honest. Remember the old saying that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” You can always find something good and beautiful in another person, whether this relates to that person’s appearance, a certain behavior they exhibit or an accomplishment they achieved.
Be specific when offering praise.

Consider these examples: “Oh, I really like the colors you picked for your outfit. They’re so creative!”; “Good job preparing a dinner without even being asked!”; “Good point” – for the opinion they’ve just expressed. “I really liked how you cleaned your room!”; “I really liked the way you helped your younger brother; I am proud of you.”
Offer praise not only for a good performance but also the effort your child has invested. Encourage the journey, not just the destination. “You worked really hard on that paper.”; “You’re doing great, just keep moving!”; “You are almost there!”; “You will make it!”

Even though it’s important to be specific when praising behavior, don’t forget to praise your child’s personality and their positive traits. This praise will strengthen your child’s self-confidence and encourage a healthy self-image. For example: “You are a wonderful person!”; “You are so smart!”; “You are beautiful!”; “You are very capable!”; “You are so kind!”

Principle 4
Offer compliments, but make sure they’re genuine and sincere

Compliments need to come from your heart. They have to be genuine and offered sincerely. If not, they lose their power.

Unrealistic compliments can harm your children. They can lead to unattainable goals and distort their self-image. It’s best to avoid messages like: “You are the smartest boy ever!”; or “You are the most beautiful girl in the world!”

Principle 5
When providing negative feedback, never criticize a child’s personality

Messages like these never help. They are always harmful: “You jerk”; “You are crazy”; “You are bad”; “You are so clumsy”; “You are a liar!”, etc. Negative feedback should be designed so that it promotes change and improvement. If you label your child as a bad person, he may begin to think that this is a permanent condition. Offering feedback like this does not help your child learn what he needs to change in order to better himself.

Principle 6
Negative feedback: Focus on the behavior

Constructive feedback should always serve as a call for changing some concrete behavior.

“It bothers me when you are late.”
“Your music is too loud. Please, turn down the volume.”
“Please, go back to the dinner table and push your chair in.”

We should point out what concrete behavior bothers us, and make it clear how it is unacceptable.
Avoid unrealistic comments like: “You are always late”; “You never do your homework on time”; “You never do what I ask of you”, etc.

Principle 7
Deliver praise publicly; deliver constructive feedback privately

When giving corrective feedback to children, regardless of age, you should catch them alone. Most people feel humiliated when they are criticized in front of others. Negative feedback should not make somebody feel guilty or ashamed. Instead, this feedback should help your child become aware of his own behavior, correct it and learn.

Principle 8
Don’t take it personally

Parents sometimes feel offended or upset, when one of their ground rules is broken, or if inappropriate behavior is repeated, or can cause harm. This happens even more frequently with teens when they exhibit their rebellious or risky behavior. Parents sometimes see teens’ behavior as reckless and disrespectful, and something that needs to be punished. And this is sometimes true. However, this behavior can occur for several reasons, such as strong inner conflicts and pain, insecurity or peer pressure.

In these cases, it is important to keep communication open in order to understand what is going on in your teen’s head and heart. Always remember to stay calm and consistent in your discussions with your child.

Principle 9
Different forms of corrective feedback

What is the best way to provide corrective feedback? This depends on many factors. Delivering corrective feedback is a skill that you can practice. The most important thing to remember is that you follow the principles stated above. Here are examples of corrective feedback offered correctly:

“We know that you don’t like bringing the garbage out and would rather do something else, but we’ve made a deal, and we need you to take it outside.”
“I feel angry and frustrated when the bathroom is not cleaned after you bathe, even after you promised to do it. We have a rule that everybody cleans up after them and I would like it to be respected. I always try to do what I promise and I would appreciate if you do the same. What do you think?”
“Gosh, you were really good during the game. You were so focused, fast, and catching the ball really well. It seemed, though, at the end that you were out of breath. Maybe you should focus more on practicing breathing and endurance? What do you think?”
“When you don’t come home when you said would and you don’t call us, I get worried that you’re in trouble. Please, don’t let it happen again, OK?”
“You know how proud daddy and I are of you. You are a smart girl who’s always done so well in school; so, we find these lower grades surprising. Is there something going on that’s bothering you, and keeping you from studying? What’s going on, honey?”
“You know that this behavior is unacceptable (for instance, your son took money from your wallet without asking). Since you were little, we’ve taught you about honesty. What happened this time?” In general, it is good to keep the conversation open to hearing your child’s side of the story and to understand why your child broke the rule. For instance: “What made you do this?”; “Do you have some thoughts to share with us?”; “Help us understand.”

As parents, it is easier to evaluate your rules or determine appropriate consequences when you understand the entire situation.

Principle 10
Balance negative feedback with positive feedback

Do you give more positive feedback or negative feedback? Delivering more positive feedback is recommended by the experts. Positive feedback is more powerful, and it helps build healthy relationships.

In the end, don’t forget to praise yourself – for everything you do for your children. You also deserve praise for your efforts in working on your parenting skills. That’s why you’re here, right?

If you have trouble communicating with your child and you don’t know what to do, don’t hesitate to call us today!