As we begin to think back to how much food we may have consumed during the holiday, we can also take a few minutes to think back as to how much quality time we spent with our children throughout the holiday season. The holidays allow parents the opportunity for focused attention with their child, something that is not prevalent or available at other points of the year. Let’s think back to what we have gained over this holiday season:
1) How often we were able to just sit back and be mindful of our children. Being mindful of our children to a certain extent requires parents to be completely focused on the specific moment and interaction with that particular child. This is something that is more challenging during the week when other things compete for our attention. As our children brought home their school newsletter and holiday booklets, we await with joy as they jump onto our laps to read them to us. When there is time in the afternoon, we can give them (and the game of their choosing) our undivided attention. Reflecting on my specific interactions, I found that I was more attuned to “fun moments” and creating these moments with my children.
2) Outings and trips, no matter to which location, allow for real bonding time between families. Over the holiday, I witnessed family baseball games, family soccer games, and other activities where the entire family joined in together. Before Sukkot, I was asked by a mother whether she should take her teenage son on their planned trips. Here is how the conversation went:
Mrs. Randall: You don’t understand, Mark. My 15-year-old son never wants to go anywhere with his family! He always puts up a fight and wishes to stay home. Are you telling me that we should force him to go with us on our Chol Hamoed trip?
Mark: While I hear your issues, I still think that the entire family should go on at least one outing together. While you may choose to have him select a particular location for one of the trips, it is very important that he attend the trip and not be permitted to remain at home.
Even a teenager needs the message that family time is important and he or she is to be included, regardless of what has occurred in the past. As I have written in the past, spending time with your child gives the message that “I value my time with you.”
3) Holidays allow our children to also spend some additional time with their friends. Watching our children interact with their friends allows parents to get a “fresh look” on how their child interacts with other peers. Here are some quick things that can be mentioned as it relates to this topic:
a) Was my child involved with his friends during the holiday?
b) Was my child more interested in staying home than being with others?
c) How did my child interact with others when he/she was at synagogue?
Each of the above points can be used by parents as a tool for reflection and further discussion.
4) And yes, even on the holidays, there may be some conflict. From sharing decoration space in the Sukkah to arguing over the location and timing of various trips, the holidays are also a good time for families to practice sharing, compromising, and use of positive communication.
I hope that everyone had a meaningful and enjoyable holiday season!
Mark Staum, LCSW is the school therapist for the PTACH program @ MTA. Mark also maintains a local private practice where he specializes in working with children to develop tools and techniques to manage anxiety and stress. Through Cognitive Behavioral, Mindfulness and Stress Management, Mark empowers children to overcome their fears and manage social, emotional and academic stress. Mark also consults with families and provides solution based techniques to improve family communication and family dynamics. If you wish to schedule an appointment or speak with Mark about any related issue, please contact him at [email protected]
By Rabbi Mark Staum