Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving: Nurturing Family Relations

Cooking Lesson: My Grandmother, Father and Daughter 
 By Linda Shaw  

My first Thanksgiving cooking lesson came at age eight, when my Great Uncle Lincoln taught me how to make mashed potatoes. His potatoes had a special ingredient that needed to be added in just the right way, at just the right moment. 

 I remember how his voice gave me confidence when he whispered, 
“It’s a secret family recipe that very few know, but everyone loves, you will do great.”
I was thrilled to be trusted to help cook a Thanksgiving dish. And, I remember how in those magical moments he made me feel part of my mother’s family; he helped me feel special, part of a greater whole.

Traditionally the Thanksgiving holiday has been a time when extended family has come together over dinner and activities.  Thanksgiving provides opportunity for family to discover one another, bond and express gratitude for the blessing of being family.  As I remembered my own family Thanksgiving traditions, I recognized that the passing on of family recipes is but one-way families define and recreate themselves.

Below are a few ideas and considerations to help nurture family bonds between generations:

Cooking Lessons: Grandparents enjoy sharing memories associated with longstanding family recipes. Try to create opportunity for multi-generational cooking; as this is one-way children can become acquainted with extended family on a more personal level. See Cooking with Children 
AAA- All AgeActivities: Plan for activities that everyone can participate in and enjoy. A Family Football Game may not seem the best for everyone, but if you add cheerleaders, scorekeepers, announcers, and referees, etc. you can include all ages. 
Other activities:  bowling, biking, hiking, group games, crossword challenge (two teams race to do the same crossword), charades, music or talent shows, book readings, basketball, volleyball, song-singing, hide-n-seek, sardines, outside campfires, strategy games, card-games, puzzles, tournament (fishing, horseshoes, putting). 
 Genealogy – Thanksgiving is the perfect time for families to remember family history and lore. You could initiate interest by having younger family members think of questions to ask older family members, or you might place questions on small pieces of papers and place them in a bowl. You could also ask teens to interview family members with a tape recorder and create a documentary.
Memories – Place photos of Family Members who have passed on, have photo albums out for the younger generation to view or  have a 'Family Hall of Fame Display'.  If a grandparent participated in a certain activity (sport, art, talent) be sure to let the younger generation know. Not only will it create a link of interest, but it will help them understand their own talents and interests.

Babies and Toddlers - As a host be sure to make accommodations for the youngest family members by speaking to parents about naps, nursing, allergies, anxieties, etc,  As a parent be sure to vocalize concerns about boundaries and your level of comfort with regards to your child. Respect for one another begins with good communication skills. 

Grandparents- Find a way to make the older generation feel needed, special, and appreciated. Allowing the sharing of recipes, talents, stories, or advice are but a few ideas. 
Miss Manners– Thanksgiving is a time for politeness and restraint. Before the day be sure to remind children and teens to practice manners by patiently waiting to join a conversation, refraining from speaking while chewing and respecting other’s opinions. Adults might also need to be reminded to respect generational differences, personal preferences, and parental boundaries.
Photos- Sometimes the best memories are candid moments. Assign a pre-teen, teen, or young adult to take random shots with a digital camera. Remind them to respect privacy by not taking photos of 1. People chewing food.  2. Someone who asks them not to.  3. Someone sleeping
Conversation - Conversation is a skill that requires practice. Encourage good conversation between family members by asking about non-personal subjects such as hometown city events, recent sport or cultural events, interests or activities, school interests, goals, or praise for recent accomplishments. Avoid discussions about health, debt, money, crime, job-searches, grades, or personal relationships.

What traditions does your family practice that helps you bond with one another?

How do you manage yourself and your family in multi-generational family gatherings? 



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