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Family Values

eating-togetherEmoticons: digital icons, such as :), used to express emotions in text.

Emoticons express emotions on flat surfaces, but emotions are not nearly that simplistic or easily understood in 3D. Emotional health begins in infancy and parents lay the foundation. This month, we discuss the fourth building block to emotional health: Importance.

It seems ironic that this "Importance" building block comes as families celebrate the most cherished "important" holiday of the year. A yearly concentrated time families gather, pass traditions on, uniquely celebrate, highlight "important" things. Memories are shared, which anchors families, strengthens the team, and sings the refrain "we share life together".

Traditions

Traditions are an important way children learn connections. They make families unique and define a family. Children understand and replicate chosen traditions. Yielding, "This is the way we do it," sense of kinship.

Keep traditions that feel comfortable and fit your parenting style and financial resources. Traditions provide children with an important sense of belonging. They don't have to be elaborate in order to be fun or memorable. The most important thing you can do to start a new tradition (or continue an old one) is whatever feels comfortable and enjoyable for both the parents and children. Traditions are also important for teaching children about--and centering them in their cultures.

Adapted from (The Nurturing Parent, accessed Oct. 2014)

The essence of a Sense of Importance is children knowing they are an integral part of a family: realizing they have gifts, abilities, and traits to contribute. This proves they are needed and important. Cementing this block firmly gives children purpose; they are a part of something bigger than themselves. They have something to offer; they matter.

In the young years, learning importance comes in simple ways. "Addressing your child by name, especially when accompanied by eye contact and touch, exudes a “you’re special” message," Ask Dr. Sears webpage explains. In toddlerhood, simple tasks help increase importance: putting toys away, folding napkins, handing objects to parents, etc. In preschool years and beyond, specific chores can be assigned for the family good. The team approach, all working for the good of the unit, gives each member a role, thus underscoring their importance.

Giving children a "voice" is a contributing factor to them finding importance as well. Dr. Richard Grossman suggests, "One of the most important psychological factors in raising a family is giving children "voice." What is "voice"? It is the sense of agency that resides in all of us, that makes us confident that we will be heard, and that we will have impact on our environment." Dr. Grossman recommends three main ways to accomplish this: Assume what your child has to say about the world is just as important as what you have to say. Assume you can learn as much from them as they can from you. Enter their world through play, activities, discussions: don't require them to enter yours in order to make contact.

Children with a sense of importance know they have a space to fill in the world and offers their abilities for the greater good. They cheer for teammates, lend assistance, and do not need pampering. Their need for importance is well established in their family.

This holiday season, celebrate the family team you are part of. Assist each other, ask for help, give each a role to play; dispense work to ensure more time for festivities. Look those you love in the eyes, call them by name, and remind them of their place in your heart and home. Merry Merry!

Elaine Stone, mother of three, lives in Spotsylvania County. Write: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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