Meat loaf, smeat loaf, double beat loaf, I hate meat loaf.

It is that time of year when the high flying adventures of Ralphie and his little brother Randy come to life. While Ralphie, armed with his Red Ryder BB gun – with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time, is the main hero of ‘A Christmas Story’, I’d like to focus this entry on his little brother Randy. Randy as you may recall time and again brought on disgusted and exasperated expressions from his brother and parents.

Remember Randy’s eating habits at the dinner table?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNNpydUfduo

What about the fiasco when snow suiting up for school?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW4IZ0Flh3M

So, what do you do when your child doesn’t want to eat? What do you do with the incessant whining? The talking back? The sibling fighting? A few of the common responses offered by parents are to snap right away, ignore until then can’t anymore and then boil over, or to try and discuss rationally with their child the undesirable behavior (only for it to be repeated). Holiday time can bring similar responses as well as flat out ignoring. The bevy of Christmas gifts has a knack for creating enough of a pacifying affect to delay having to deal with the behavior. And it is no wonder. Come holiday time you are likely to be on your last nerve after an exhausting first half of the school year and frenzy of holiday activities including parties, present shopping, and prepping for family trips/gatherings. Here are some helpful ways for parents to prepare for and navigate this holiday time should ‘Randy’ choose to make an appearance.

1.     Many parents I meet with have gotten to the point they spend zero time working on their own physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual well being. First, your personal well being directly impacts your ability to parent and be a partner to your significant other. Making time for you to shut down and recharge the batteries is critical. That might mean going for a walk or run to clear your head, going to the gym, taking a power nap, going by church/temple (ie. prayer time, daily mass), having prayer time at home, or meditating. I can hear you now; when is there time for that?! It can be challenging, but all you need is a few minutes. Meditations like the ones below offer a pause or break and chance to recalibrate yourself during this often chaotic season:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVW_IE1nsKE (3 minutes)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEkJMRDhvsw (6 minutes)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7iBnp8T6nY (12 minutes)

2.     When my family gets together at the holidays we often sit around the table telling stories, jokes, playing games, or even bursting out in the occasional holiday song. All these have led to many warm family memories. For some all this noise can cause sensory overload. Be aware of your childrens’ limits as well as your own, and set clear boundaries to avoid an overload. Consider how much time can be spent in front of electronics or in high active play. Allow for time with siblings, cousins, and all of your family, and remember to build in some quiet alone time to settle down. Safeguard them from over stimulation, which can lead to behavioral issues. Bring books or quiet activities so they can settle themselves down during these breaks. Remember that electronics stimulate their brain rather than slow it down, so avoid making down time, electronic time.

3.     Practice gratitude. There has been ground-breaking scientific research this past year that has firmly concluded that family members get on one another’s nerves. Mind blowing right? Just kidding, we all know this. So, what to do? You can dwell on what you don’t like OR draw your attention to the positives. Be mindful and watch out for pitfalls like the “shoulds” and “musts” we come up with in our minds:

“He should follow directions the first time.”

“She shouldn’t disrespect me in front of the family.”

“He must eat all his food.”

 All of these are demands that work against us, because it creates a success or failure situation. There is no wiggle room. I came across a quote several years ago that has stuck with me, “What we shine light on grows.” The choice to breed contempt or gratitude is up to you. Make it a practice to express your thanks to yourself and with others during this season.

So whether your holiday includes watching the epic “dog dare” exchange at the flag pole https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RgCbcT8eEU or not, I “triple dog dare” you to give the three things above a go this Christmas.

I wish you and your family a safe and blessed holiday season!

Mark

P.S. I love my Mom's meat loaf!