Me in a Tree

Archive for December, 2013


new year

The new year is always a sign of freshness, a new start, promise, and opportunity. With that comes the inevitable New Year’s resolutions. This year, make resolutions for the whole family. Here are a few ideas.

• More reading, and less electronics. Television, Internet, video games, and other electronics can often be a source of distraction. Resolve to turn off the television for a couple hours a week, and replace that time with reading. You’ll be glad you did.
• Have an attitude of gratitude. Being thankful every day for even just the little things improves your mood, reduces stress, and realigns your focus on the things that truly matter like the ones you love.
• Make family dinners a priority. Research shows that families who eat together at the same time every day are more supportive of each other. It’s a great way to bond as a family, catch up on daily activities, and add needed structure.
• Move together. Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and a healthy family. Going for walks or playing a game of tag is a great way to get your body moving and bond as a family.
• Don’t overschedule. Kids today are too busy with school work and all the extracurricular activities. You have to allow time for free play, family time, and proper sleep. Striking a balance between the activities your kids enjoy and free time is important for your kids’ and family’s health.

Above all, enjoy the year with your family. Laugh lots. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be kind. Love lots. Your kids will follow your example.


As parents, it’s our responsibility to discuss gratefulness, generosity, unselfishness and service not just during the holidays but year-round. We are our children’s greatest role models — we should start early to mold our children’s perspectives on the holiday season. May we create such treasured memories of family time and togetherness, and the joy of giving, that our children will not remember what they did or did not get. Happy Holidays!


Tis the season for Christmas carols, baking, gift shopping, and of course stress. Parents aren’t the only ones who get stressed during the holidays. Children also get stressed over the holidays, and one of the major stressors is the disruption of their routines. Trying to keep those routines as consistent as possible may keep you and your children relaxed during the holidays. Here are some tips to help you keep that routine.

• Keep changes to a minimum. It’s great to decorate your house with holiday themed trimmings, but be careful not to overdo it. The extra stimulation – from decorations to music to food – can cause your child to stress due to sharp changes in the environment.
• Do a little Christmas every day, but not too much. If you have work schedules, extracurricular activities and holiday traditions, keeping a routine becomes essential. For example, do the dishes like you normally would, put the kids to bed at their regular time, but read a Christmas story instead. Decide which holiday traditions are important to you, and make those a part of your holiday routine.
• If you have school-aged children, the Christmas break can be a long time. However, this can be a good opportunity to keep your children learning during the break. Have them practice reading a Christmas book, or write a Christmas story.
• Keep bedtime routines the same. Have your children go to bed at the same time during the break as they would during school. This minimizes the disruption.

It can be hard to keep routines during this season, but they can ground you in to taking perspective on what matters, what traditions you choose to participate in, and how enjoyable your holiday can be.


christmas gift

Many cultures around the world celebrate special holidays with gifts and food, and Christmas does not escape this tradition. However, our culture has become increasingly commercialized and materialized, and Christmas is one time when this is very true. Gift gifting today is a multi-billion dollar industry, and the tradition gets lost somewhere in the flurry of holiday-themed wrapping paper and credit card receipts. How can families still enjoy the fun and tradition of giving gifts at Christmas, but not become overwhelmed with the materialism of it?

To keep a healthy perspective on presents, center your traditions on family and friends. Whether you get together with family and reminisce, tell stories, drink hot chocolate, or whatever other tradition you may cherish as a family, put that at the center of your holidays. Emphasize the importance of family and friends during the holidays.

Even if you don’t have family traditions, it’s never too late to start building some. Maybe you decide that every year on December 24, you go ice skating with your family. Then, maybe you want to bake some cookies for Christmas morning. Or maybe a tradition you might want to start is serving other people. For many people, the holidays are all about helping those who are less fortunate. They are not only giving, but they are also getting a sense of belonging, meaning, and connection. Teaching your children that giving your time and energy to other people who are less fortunate is one of greatest gifts you can give because it adds a new level of meaning to Christmas.

However, giving gifts will always remain a tradition, but it is good to scale back and think about the gifts you are giving. Are you giving them because they are meaningful or because your kids have a serious case of the “Christmas gimmies”? Balance and perspective will not only be good for your kids in the long run, but also for your wallets.



You have spent dozens of hours writing lists, shopping, wrapping, mailing, organizing, and doing everything else to make the holidays a special time of year. In the midst of the flurry of the holidays, finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list can become overwhelming. Sometimes, tradition and sentiment is lost to commercialization and the “gimmies”. Here are some tips to simplify the process of giving gifts, and add a little more meaning back into the holidays.

• Most of the time, it’s not about the quantity of presents you give your children, but it’s about the quality. Have a conversation with your children that it’s about the thought and quality of the gifts they receive.
• Use the “Want, Need, Wear, Read” idea. For example, your chid writes down something that they want, need, and what they will wear and read.
• Give the gift of memories. Maybe it’s a coupon for a movie night with either mom or dad or a family vacation. Spending time together as a family is one of the best gifts you can give.
• Try homemade gifts. For example, get your children to help you bake cookies for the neighbour or for their teacher. Wrap a dozen of whatever goodie you baked in a Christmas-themed dish towel or wrapping paper. The time spent baking or cooking will be the gift that will last a lifetime.
• Focus on other people. Volunteer your time or money to help someone in need. More often than not, you get more than you give because you have a sense of community, warmth, and the “feel goods”. This is a great opportunity to teach your children that the holidays are not about giving gifts – even though the practice of gift exchange is fun and good, in perspective


doing less

Less is more. With too much of what you don’t need, it’s hard to find the things you do. With stuff piling up in closets, it can become overwhelming to focus on the tasks of the day, and more consequently, your family. Stuff can be very distracting, so here are a few tips to let you de-clutter your space, and leave room to focus on what really matters: your family.

• Find things in the house of which you can do with fewer. For example, reduce the number of towels you have to the number that you need. Same thing goes for Tupperware, magazines, cookbooks, clothes, or any other item that you could live with less of.
• Find a place for each item for everything you own. For example, medicine should go in a child-proof cupboard or your counter-top kitchen appliances should be stowed away.
• Deal with the mail right away! Mail can pile up quickly, and by discarding (recycling) the junk mail, and dealing with the other important mail right away cuts down on the amount of material things you have in your house.
• Organized your photos
• Clean out your closet. Give out-dated or clothes you haven’t worn in the past year to your local Salvation Army.
• Hold a garage sale. Turn those items you don’t need in to cash. You can use the money you make from the garage sale for a fun activity for you family.


Patience and Parenting

You can admit it. With little (or big) kids running around, keeping a household together can be quite challenging. The daily stresses of getting your kids to school, driving them to their extra-curricular activities, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, doing the dishes – I’m exhausted after writing that list.

It is important to take a few minutes each day and just be by yourself. Whether you simply take a few deep breaths, do a quick 20 minute yoga sequence, jot a few things in a journal, or take a nap for a few minutes, it is important that you, as a parent, have those few moments to relax.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, the stress of parenting can make parents feel angry, anxious, or just exhausted. The Association also stressed the fact that this stress inevitable to family life, and parents need to learn how to cope. Here are some coping from CMHA:

• Be realistic. Don’t place incredibly high expectations on your family.
• Recognize the symptoms of stress. They can physical: sleepiness, headaches, backaches, sleeping problems. They can also be emotional: feeling pressured, difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
• Set aside time every week for yourself.
• Eat right, and get plenty of exercise.
• Take a break from the children.
• Talk to someone about the stresses of raising children. Arranging a support group is very beneficial in coping with stress.
• Practice good time management.


marshmellow snowmen
What You Need
White decorating icing
Oreo Cookies
Decorating gel
Pretzel sticks
Red string licorice

Make It
SPREAD icing on end of 1 marshmallow; place icing-side down on top of cookie. Spread icing on both ends of another marshmallow and stack it on the first. Top with a third marshmallow to make the snowman.
USE decorating gel to draw the eyes, nose and mouth on top marshmallow.
INSERT 2 pretzels into middle marshmallow of snowman for the arms. Cut a 6-inch length of licorice and tie around neck for a scarf.


emotion 3

This is the second part in a series of communication dos and don’ts when talking to your teens.

Your teenager wants to lead a happy, successful life, but his or her idea of what that means might be different than yours. He or she may have a different idea on how to achieve a happy life, but also what a happy life means overall. However, that is okay. What is important is that you keep the lines of communication open. Have regular conversations with your teenager. Topics can range from light-hearted talks about daily events or in-depth, more difficult conversations about drugs, for example. Because talking to your teenager is not easy, here are a few communication don’ts.

• Try your best not to lecture. Let your teen express their feelings in a safe, non-judgemental space. Lectures often can be perceived as parents putting their teenagers on a guilt trip. This hinders communication.
• Keep your teen’s confidence. If your teenager shares private feelings with you, keep the information between the two of you. Sharing personal details with anyone else can betray trust between you and you teen, and potentially close the lines of communication

Communicating with your teenager can be like treading rough waters, but following these dos and don’ts will help you out.


emotion 3

This is the first part in a series of communication dos and don’ts when talking to your teens.

Your teenager wants to lead a happy, successful life, but his or her idea of what that means might be different than yours. He or she may have a different idea on how to achieve a happy life, but also what a happy life means overall. However, that is okay. What is important is that you keep the lines of communication open. Have regular conversations with your teenager. Topics can range from light-hearted talks about daily events or in-depth, more difficult conversations about drugs, for example. Because talking to your teenager is not easy, here are a few communication dos.

• Listen! This is the most important thing you can do. Lending a supportive and attentive ear shows your teen that you respect him or her. Listen twice as much as you talk.
• Respect his or her privacy. If your teenager daughter sees that you respect her need to have private conversations with her friends, she may be more willing to share her thoughts and feelings.
• Let him have his space. If your teenage son sees that you trust his discretion and judgement, he will understand that you respect his need for autonomy, and will be more likely to open up to your and communicate.
• Accept his or her feelings, no matter what they are! There should be no judgement when your teen opens up to you. There should only be respect.
• Acknowledge when you made a mistake. Admit it to your teen and most importantly, apologize.
• Schedule time to spend with them. Make sure that it is quality time spent, not just quantity.