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I can always tell when holiday season begins for me because my thoughts become a tangle of blinking-colored lights. End-of-year tasks and holiday obligations, real and imagined, put a strain on the brain that require organizational skills that only the frontal lobe can provide. The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for the executive functions that help us get things done. This is the part of the brain responsible for setting goals, managing time, paying attention, switching focus remembering details, planning and organizing. We rely on these skills our whole lives. Our children are developing their skills as they pick up cues from us.
Here are a few tips to get yourself through the month coupled with some best practices for helping your child develop the resilience they will need to develop positive behavior, healthy choices and academic success.
Ask yourself two questions. What do I have to accomplish in December? What do I want to do? On a piece of paper jot down all these activities. Now, prioritize items in a list. Focus on the top ones and erase the rest.
Children learn to plan and stay focused during make-believe play. Provide materials for them to create props for a pretend restaurant, spaceship, trek into the jungle.
Create three columns labeled First, Next, Last. Start with the job that needs to be completed first. Think your way through and jot down in order the steps you must take.
Children are calmer if they know what to expect each day. Add a little preview of the events of the day to your child’s morning routine.
Children love to hear stories and tell stories. Sequencing skills are built though storytelling. Help them retell their favorites using words like: first, in the beginning, next, then, later, finally, at the end. By telling their stories, children develop working memory by holding information mentally and putting thoughts in order.
Look at each item on your list. What emotion arises when you think about doing that job. Consider again which emotionally charged tasks you need to do, what will help you to get yourself ready, and when will be the best time.
Children need your undivided attention at the end of the day to process what has happened during their day and express how they feel about it. Children need help naming their emotions. This quiet nighttime conversation should be a cozy moment of reassurance. Really listening to your child will take less time and energy than dealing with a meltdown later.
We all talk to ourselves. It’s the tone that we take that matters! Make sure you are being kind to yourself especially when feeling tired or facing a challenge. If you tend to blame and berate yourself, then it is time to reframe the conversation!
Start early with babies and toddlers to encourage positivity. Confidence and perseverance grow from encouragement and reasonable expectations. By modeling your own self-talk -- “I’m still learning.” “That was a mistake but I’m going to keep trying” -- you set your child up for that can-do attitude that leads to success.
Holiday craziness lasts a month. Routine and relationships all year long build the foundation for children to develop their own coping skills. This holiday season is a good time to model high functioning behaviors for your child’s sake and your own.
Now, about those tangled lights….
Rorie Measure is president emeritus of Children's Reading Alliance, a grassroots initiative to encourage family literacy throughout Doña Ana County. She is a reader, writer, teacher, reading specialist and literacy trainer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.