The holidays are officially here and the new year is around the corner! Here we are on Christmas Eve and whether or not you celebrate it, you can’t help but feel it in the air. Here in Dallas it is an unusually brisk 34-degree morning, the streets are empty, the grocery store is packed, and most everyone has that holiday cheer and spirit about them. What a lovely time of year! You give and you get and you hustle and bustle to get everything done before the holiday so you can relax and enjoy your family, while your kids may have an entirely different agenda. You may dream of a lazy afternoon relaxing on the couch by the fire but their plans include bouncing on that couch like an indoor trampoline, running circles around the house and spinning around and around and around…not quite as you imagined! And there you are again in a day that feels no different than all other days and you think…really? Ugh! So I invite you to set those expectations of what should be aside and appreciate what’s so this holiday season. Whether your child is hyperactive, sensory seeking, sensory avoiding, stimming, or just driving you nuts – pause, breathe and take an active moment to be grateful for that child as he/she is, appreciating all that is wonderful in them, appreciating what’s so.
Living in a world of what should be (better, different, less this, more that) is a stressful place to be – a world which is often disappointing. But living in a world of simply what’s so brings a sense of grounding and peace. It takes practice to live in that latter world and to wholeheartedly embrace and enjoy it, letting go of those pesky should’s, especially for parents of kids with special needs. But it is an important life skill that can bring more peace and joy to the overall experience of parenting. According to the Parent Coaching Institute, “what you focus on grows”, and so I encourage all of my parent coaching clients to begin a gratitude practice in order to bring forth into conscious awareness all of which is working, all of which they do appreciate, all that they are in fact grateful for – in order to enhance their experience and their sense of connection with their child.
There is no better time than during the holidays for parents (and kids alike) to begin to explore all that they appreciate and all that they are grateful for (even if it isn’t exactly how you dreamt it to be or not even close!) This can be done as a family so that kids can experience modeling from their parents or older siblings and/or can be done individually in a dedicated journal for example. You can ask holiday-specific questions such as ‘what’s one thing you appreciate this holiday, are thankful for, or makes you happy?’ You can encourage younger children to draw pictures of what they are thankful for and older children to list one thing they might also do for someone in need. After the holidays you might incorporate an appreciation ritual over dinner where everyone shares his or her favorite part of the day or what he or she most appreciated that day, encouraging healthy expression of feelings, mindfulness and the opportunity for family connection – shifting the energy from all that may have gone wrong to all that is right.
I wish you all happy holidays filled with gratitude for what’s so!