Mental Morsels With Dr. Cearley

How to Have a More Fulfilling Christmas

Jamie Cearley, PhDchristmas teddy bear

What if I told you that you were getting ripped off during Christmastime? A little abrasive I know, but many fall for a make-believe form of the holidays that leaves their emotions and their wallets hollow on December 26th.

Try these 8 actions to ward off those who would leave you feeling slighted come January, and have a marvelous, merry Christmas indeed.

1. Determine you will not go into debt for presents. The pressure of our materialistic society can be crushing at Christmas. The marketers are relentless in their quest. If only they would leave kids out of the equation, then maybe we would stand a chance. But no, children are the focus of their efforts. Indeed, Santa’s elves are no more than creditors in cute disguises with squeaky voices. How can you escape this pressure? Here are just a few strategies to help:

• Set a budget early on. Determine how much you have to spend on Christmas and stick to it.
• Do not use credit to buy presents.
• Get away from the media. When you can, turn off the television, the radio, or any other avenue where marketing is thrust upon you or your children.
• Stay out of the stores as much as possible.
• Kids do not need a multitude of presents to open on Christmas morning. Don’t fall for this lie. People of all ages are only capable of focusing on a small number of things at a time. A few thoughtful, quality gifts are far better than overwhelming a anyone with the number of gifts they have to open.

2. Realize you cannot buy Christmas. Take some time to contemplate what you think you should be so merry about come December 25th, anyway. Is it tangible? How do you get it? Is it a feeling? Is it an attitude? How much does it cost? Is it even real, or just fantasy? Most would say one or more of the following: Christianity, Jesus Christ, family, celebration, and gratitude. Priceless and joyous are each one.

3. Free gifts are the best gifts. Here are some ideas for low to no-cost “gifts.” All are sure to make memories, not anxiety.

• Pick up the phone. Give an old friend a call.
• Pack up the family and take a day trip to visit a friend or family member.
• Visit a nursing home or hospital.
• Take some vacation days from work and stay home.
• Go for a walk with a friend or family member.
• Make something from scratch with someone you love.

4. Remember those grieving. Remembering a grieving friend is a fantastic way to give a slap in the face to the unimportant facets of Christmas and re-focus on what matters most. For those who are missing a loved one, the holidays can be tough to manage. Knowing someone is thinking of them in a special way and recognizes their agony is priceless.

5. Forget about self. Most, if not all counselors would agree that serving others is beneficial to our personal psyche. There is something about giving of ourselves in any form to another that breathes life into us. Maybe this is the key to getting what you want out of Christmas after all — seek to make someone's Christmas merry and bright and forget about your own.

6. Show authentic kindness. The world needs more authentic kindness, not the phony kind. The real deal takes time, respect, and humility. Learn about phony kindness and how to be genuine in your kindness.

7. Make Christmas about less: Less stuff, less debt, and less busyness. Contentment can be hard to find at Christmas. If we are not careful, our stuff can begin to own us instead of the other way around. Less stuff brings more space, resources, and time. The irony comes to light of how much more we can have when we have less.

8. Make Christmas about more: More family time, more conversation, more listening, more service to others, and more giving. Throw in a dash of play, and you just might leave Christmas gratified rather than disgruntled.

Don’t feel cheated again this January. Get control over your spending, forget about yourself, serve someone, spread kindness, and make Christmas about more. May you start off the New Year pleased with your spending and feeling as though Christmas was indeed merry and bright.

Make Kids Great Again: Ignore Them

Jamie Cearley, PhDKids_550x550

Kids have a lousy reputation these days. Some of this standing is unjustified. There are some dandy kids out there. Yet I am afraid many times a bad reputation is warranted.

I don’t have kids. Wait! Before you stop reading; I do remember being one. I always knew I was a big part of my mom’s world. I also knew I was not her whole world. Nor was I even at the top of her list. For this I am forever grateful.

I started to say I have a lot of friends with kids, but that isn’t true. I have some friends with kids but they tend to be parents like my mom. Most others I know with kids are impossible to be friends with because their kids are their entirety. Control of everything they say, do, buy, and everywhere they go belongs to their kids. In short, their kids are their lives, their sole existence; dictating their every move.

I feel sorry for kids who grow up in this environment, thinking the world revolves around them. The future is not bright for such a soul entering adulthood. I also feel sorry for those moms who have become empty shells of their former selves.

Perhaps it is social pressure from our society where so many children are outright neglected driving this focus. Or maybe it is the stigma surrounding “working mothers” who are guilt-ridden for not being “stay-at-home moms.” Those are two paradoxical labels I will for the life of me never come to terms with. Perhaps moms who want to do well are so laden by our culture, their guilt drives them to behave this way. Whatever the reason, excluding those who neglect their children outright, I beg you to pay less attention to your kids.

I learned priceless lessons because my mom wasn’t paying attention.

Here are 11 Worthy Lessons Taught When You Pay Less Attention to Your Kids:

1. Listen when adults are talking; you just might learn something. Being silent can have great benefits.
2. Not everything you do is amazing. My mom kept her praise in reserve. High achievement was an expectation, as was responsibility, and hard work. Praise was held in reserve for those occasions when it would mean the most, not made commonplace. In the adult world, gold stars are a rare prize.
3. The conversation isn’t always about me. Learn how to talk about something besides yourself; maybe even something bigger than yourself. Today’s version of this would include selfies. My mom taught me to live my life, not document it.
4. Eat what you are given. It isn’t easy to cook all those meals, and yes, the meals aren’t about me either. It just may be someone else’s day to have their favorite.
5. How to entertain yourself with nothing. Have some imagination. It isn’t always your show. This skill comes in handy almost daily as an adult.
6. Enjoy the outdoors. That is where my mother thought children belonged. It was not beyond her to send us out in morning and lock the door behind us. I realize our world is not as safe as it used to be, but the principle still applies.
7. Learn how to play. Not to push buttons on a screen but to play indeed. Learn what play feels like.
8. When it is your money, you are tighter with it. If Mom was buying it was a must. If I was buying I was self-sufficient, in need nor want for anything, not even chocolate.
9. Respect others' desire to be alone. Sometimes even moms want to be alone. That’s a desire we would all enjoy honoring.
10. Respect others' space and possessions. We did not have toys all over the house, nor did we have a room full of them. We have gone from the concept of a toy box to a play room. I have seen houses where there are toys in every room from wall to wall and even out into the yard. I can remember having a bicycle. No, wait, it was my sister’s bicycle. I did not have one of my own; not until I was about 12. I remember my dad emphasizing we were not to leave the bicycle outside overnight as this would show lack of appreciation by not caring for it and putting it away out of the weather. I know my future employers and spouse appreciated my having learned this lesson.
11. Respect private space. We did not go into my parents’ bedroom whether they were in there or not. If you did it had better be an emergency. It was their private space. We respected it as such.

I find it fascinating how often our plans backfire on us. Often parents think if they offer a total self-sacrifice for their kids somehow they will turn out better. When in fact total self-sacrifice leads to kids who are totally selfish.

Not having kids means I am not into giving parenting advice. Go ahead and put your comment below anyway, I can take it. Yet, looking from the outside in, I see both healthier moms and kids when the kids are not their mom’s whole world. At least I can say as an adult I am indebted to my mom for all those times she was not paying attention. Thanks, Mom.

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