The phrase “Quality Family Time” is supposed to bring to mind beautiful memories of good times shared with the people you love most. Board games, movie nights, elaborate home cooked family dinners around the kitchen table - these are the things of Christmas movies, but more often than not, my family time consists of struggling to find something everyone wants to eat that won’t take more than 30 minutes to make, tired people, short tempers, endless chores and logistics conversations, and a nagging guilt that we should do this life thing better. Our lives feel rushed, and I often find myself barely finishing one thing while the next begins. Our time after work becomes an ongoing barrage of tasks to complete before the next day brings new ones, so “quality” is not always the first word that comes to mind when I think about my family time. Maybe you’re like me, or maybe you’ve got a better handle on life - and for that, I commend you. Either way, we hope this issue of Eagle Counseling Newsletter provides some fresh insight for creating quality family time within your homes.
Co-Parenting Through the Holidays
Many people go into the holiday season ready to celebrate their family’s treasured traditions. In my family, my brother and I would play Uno in one of our rooms until 7:00 am when we were finally allowed to wake up our parents to open presents. Once dad had some coffee, and mom had some iced tea, we settled around the tree and opened gifts one at a time. Every year was the same. But what if your family structure has changed dramatically in the last year? What if this your kids will have a Christmas with mom and a Christmas with dad? What if there are new spouses and new kids to consider? We all wish that we could guarantee our children the world’s best Christmas every year, but sometimes, we’re at a loss for how to make that happen. The following two articles address navigating the holiday season post-divorce with some practical advice for co-parenting peacefully, integrating step-relatives, and developing realistic expectations for this season.
Stress Management as a Family
When students talk to us about things that stress them out, we always ask them if they’ve talked to their parents about it. After all, parents are their number one supporters, right? The responses we get most often are, “No, they are too busy.” “They have their own stress to deal with.” “I never see them because they have a lot going on.” I don’t tell you that to make you feel guilty because I don’t know that those statements are an accurate representation of your family. Instead, many times, they are a child’s perception of the truth. I remember growing up and hearing about my parents’ work stress at the dinner table. When I had the opportunity to work as a helper at my mom’s office one summer in high school, I got to experience first hand the complaints I had been hearing about. How do we balance sharing our day to day experiences with students while still conveying that we still have plenty of time and mental/emotional capacity to hear our children’s concerns? I tell students all the time that becoming a parent means your strength doubles. You not only continue to carry your own junk, but God enables you to carry anything your children have going on too. That’s part of our calling and while it’s certainly taxing at times, we’d rather know than be left in the dark. Below are two articles from the American Psychological Association about managing stress and holiday stress and a video describing the most important issue facing kids today: stress.
“Thank You, God” A Skit Guys Video
When I was first introduced to this video by a friend and fellow teacher, I was excited because there was a Skit Guys video that I had not seen, which is rare. However, as it played I was hit by two things: the first was a feeling of surprise at how many of those situations have been a part of my life over the years and how it helped me to “take stock” of those memories a little. But the second thing that struck me was the responses of those individuals in their various situations, and how faith shaped their attitude and their answer to life’s problems. I can honestly say that my responses were not the same as theirs, but I hope they would be more like them at this point in my faith and life.
Each shared a faith and hope, a sense of humility and gratefulness in their individual circumstances. But be it bills, job loss, or cancer, they gave thanks for God’s provision, hope, and faithfulness despite their situations. I give thanks that we have a God who loves us and is Gracious with His responses even when we are not with ours. Like He shares with us in 1 Thessalonians 5:15-22, He says “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”
Our hope for you this holiday season is that no matter your situation(s), the Lord will show you and remind you of the good in your life. Sometimes it is the big things like a new job, a new home, a child, but these are gifts that are not always a part of the story for everyone. Joy may also be found in the simple things: a kind word from a friend or even stranger, having a family, even if it is composed of friends, a hug, a smile, or even time. Whatever the case, may you find Joy this season as we once again celebrate friends, family, and the Gift of Christ Jesus!
Click below for Scripture Verses on Giving Thanks.
Finding Interdependence: Healthy Relationships Within a Family
Developing healthy relationships can be a tall order, and as I have found over the years both personally and professionally, this is never more evident than during the holidays. Whether we are surrounded by family and friends (maybe a little too closely), or are battling loss, absence or distance of loved ones, our relational gaps come more closely into view as we have a little more time to think or reminisce, or maybe keep ourselves busy and preoccupied so we do not have to. However, it makes me sad when it is echoed throughout our culture how we should all do our own thing because the pinnacle of health is Independence. Our culture, like many others, touts the importance of independence, and this permeates even to the level of our families.
To better understand this, we look at this as more of a spectrum. On the one side is independence, which has healthy elements as well as unhealthy such as isolation, selfishness, and narcissism. On the other end of the spectrum is codependence, and while not all bad, has other unhealthy balances like a loss of self, inability to think or act on one’s own, and self-consciousness. In the middle of the spectrum, shining like a beacon, is both the balance and the original design to relationships: Interdependence. This is where two or more people are dependent on each other, but for the purpose of helping. Some might argue that they “need to be independent, that’s not healthy!,” or call it codependency, but in this case all parties are contributing equally. This definition does not work for children because they journey through lessening levels of dependency to one of the other three, hopefully interdependence. We see examples of interdependence everyday without always realizing it: a manager and their employees, a husband and wife, or a teacher and students for example. All work together equally in the healthiest versions of themselves and share responsibility when things are going well and otherwise. When we look at the original design of relationships, we see two examples: first, God created the first man Adam out of dust so that He might have someone to love and to enjoy and appreciate all that He had created. Second, God created Eve out of Adam’s rib because God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Both of these relationship models were created by God as examples to us, and even though we do not always like the idea of being fully dependent on someone, which is maybe why we ultimately rebel against the idea in the first place, we are at our best when we fully rely and depend on God. He gave us each other, not just spouses, or children, family or friends, but all people, so that we might love and depend on each other all as God’s children.
In our experience, the concept and practice of interdependence is more of a “simmer” mindset than a "flash boil," so this is a subject we will keep revisiting. An encouragement as you explore interdependence in the articles below would be this: yes, it takes more time, effort, patience, and the list goes on. Interdependence is messy. But life is already messy as it is, and it is much richer, stronger, and fuller when we work, live, laugh, love, cry, strive and fight shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand.
For some ideas on what it means or might look like, here are a couple of articles as you look into what interdependence might look like for you:
Gary Prindiville is the school counselor and a middle school theology teacher at Prince of Peace Christian School and Early Learning Center in Carrollton, TX. Visit the Contact page for more information.
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