Christmas is upon us and many of us are thinking about the gifts we want to give to others. But before you hit the shopping mall, think about taking care of yourself first. Remember those instructions from the flight attendant about putting your own oxygen mask on before you assist someone in your care? So what sort of gift could you give to yourself? I have one to offer up and when you receive it from yourself, it can have devastating positive lasting results. I’m talking about emotional health here!
One night, my wife and I were leaving a holiday social event. We couldn't help but share with each other on the drive home, the lingering feelings we had after listening to a few other couples, bicker with each other and complaining to the rest of us. None of them had anything encouraging to say and the experience made us want to leave. That’s the night several years ago that we decided together on two very important gifts for each other going forward.
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Our first important decision was to surround ourselves only with encouraging and supportive people. Over the next few days we began ‘cleaning house’ by listing all the adults in our lives who we felt were toxic. These are the people who complained and berated others, bickered with each other in front of others, and the ‘doubting Thomas’ who usually tell you every reason why your new idea won’t work.
The second thing we did was to promise each other to always speak respectfully and kind to each other, not only in front of the kids, but out in public as well. This was especially important if the other was absent. We promised never to air any issues we have with each other in public and to address them in private. This included not making each other the butt of a joke or busting on each other in humiliating or embarrassing ways.
To cultivate a relationship and life as good parents (and teachers), it’s critical to remain
positive, encouraging and to always focus on gratitude for all of the gifts that appear in our lives each day. Steer clear of the ‘crabs’ that will always try and pull you down to join them in their misery or misfortune, and to pass this all on to our kids. So here are some additional guidelines we came up with for ourselves.
1. Surround ourselves with positive and encouraging people. This was a difficult task to perform, limiting who we would invite to social events. Unfortunately, it meant eliminating some family members!
2. Add statements of gratitude to our blessings before family meals. Take notice of all the little things that others did for us and recognize the gifts that appeared in our day that helped us in some way.
3. Send out hand-written thank you notes (not emails) each week to anyone who helped us solve a challenge or provided service to us in some capacity.
As adults raising (and teaching) children, we owe it to them to understand the difference between encouragement and discouragement and how to manifest what they need to develop their own resiliency.
Bill Corbett has a degree in clinical psychology and is the author of the award winning book “Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids,” in English and in Spanish. He is happily married with three grown children, two grandchildren, three step children, and lives in Enfield. You can visit his Web site www.CooperativeKids.com for further information and parenting advice.