November 19, 2014

Making Caring Common and Giving Thanks

Good morning.  It’s the Friday before Thanksgiving.  A time for our elementary students to share their school and celebrate with their guests at our annual Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day. It’s also a time for us to take a week away from school and to spend time together with family, to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with friends and relatives, and to give thanks. 

Thanksgiving, as we all know, tends to be the kick off to the big holiday season. The holidays, and the accompanying big family occasions, have the potential to be precarious for younger children.

The holidays are a time of traveling, cooking, cleaning, planning, cooking more, making lists and counting chairs and napkins. But it is also the time of year when parents are considering how their 2-year-old will hold up during a Thanksgiving meal that starts at 7 p.m. Or how their 10-year-old daughter will react when she opens a present from Great Aunt Edna to find a puppy sweater that she would have liked when she was 3. Or whether their 7-year-old son will understand the importance of togetherness, love and thankfulness when the family gathers around a table. It’s a stressful time for many people. And even though we love our kids and they are lots of fun, they often magnify that stress.”

This quote is from a great new article in the Washington Post by Amy Joyce, titled Tips to get your kids through the holidays graciously and gratefully. I’m sure we could all use a few pointers on this topic – I know I could!

One of the experts interviewed for this article is psychologist and noted author Dr. Richard Weissbourd who is the co-director of the Making Caring Common Project at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

In the past year I have been fortunate enough to play a part in developing some of the work of the Making Caring Common Project.  It is an initiative in moral and social development for children. The Making Caring Common Project seeks to help educators, parents, and communities raise children who are caring, respectful, responsible to others, and committed to justice.

In the article, Dr. Weissbourd gives us several suggestions, as parents, for helping kids to find gratitude over Thanksgiving, helping them to understand that there’s a reason it’s called Thanksgiving.  He suggests:

• asking our children to think about someone outside of the family who has helped them

• finding an organization we can get behind, and make a promise to do something monthly for that group or that cause.

And later, in December, he suggests that we

do not inundate kids with gifts. When we give too many gifts, the appreciation goes out the window.

This is good advice and it follows many earlier tips in the article about how to get our kids through the holidays. I won’t repeat them all here, but the article is a solid and quick read. Click here to read the whole article.

One excellent link from the Post is to the website for The Family Dinner Project, a “grass-roots movement of food, fun, and conversation about things that matter”.  The Family Dinner Project helps
Former Friends' Head Polly Donald helping out
with our annual bulb planting tradition this week
families to have conversations about how we are going to give at the holidays “– not just money, but time and simple acts of kindness.”

There are excellent pointers for conversation starters, games and other resources (developed with the help of the Making Caring Common Project team) to help us explore how we want to give back this holiday season and throughout the year.

As a school, Friends’ students and teachers are working with the good people at Bridge House, an organization that serves Boulder’s homeless and working poor, to provide much-needed toiletries and food items. Service learning projects, such as these, help us meet our school’s mission of developing social responsibility and respect for diversity and the individual.

We hope to teach our children that the holidays are about much more than ourselves. We hope to remind ourselves, as parents and educators, that we at Friends’, just like the folks at Harvard, also want to raise children who are caring, respectful, responsible to others, and committed to justice.

Happy Thanksgiving from our Friends’ School family to yours. 

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