Attitude of Gratitude: Making More of Less.

One common holiday dilemma is, “How do we cut back and let our kids really experience the people in their lives and the world around them, rather than adding more stuff to the mix?” On this retail high holiday of Black Friday, here’s a link round-up for cutting back, doing less, experiencing more — if this is a goal for your family during this winter season, we hope you’ll find some ideas here!

One couple’s story about how they came to forego giving Christmas presents, and some tips for cutting back on your own holiday excesses.

A meditation on the relationship between emotions and consumer products from a dad who is looking for a new way for his kids.

A list of 22 meaningful, non-toy gifts that will carry your family’s conversations well into the New Year.

Some tips for making the holidays less materialistic, including some great beginning tips for talking about advertising and marketing messages with kids.

For Jewish families struggling with the “December Dilemma,” this is a fantastic set of reads about the consumerist challenges of the season, the dynamic of interfaith households, and much more.

Here is an interfaith family’s story of how to navigate the consumerism and cultural traditions of the winter holidays together.

And if you’ve got holiday traditions that your family enjoys, and those traditions happen to include a load of presents and surprises? It’s actually okay. Studies show that the real impact is how we encourage our kids to examine their materialism year round. So feel free to relax and know that few weeks of excess won’t do any lasting damage!

Reminder: RES University Celebrating Redding’s 250th, Part IV.

Don’t forget that the fourth and final chapter in our PTA’s RES University series for Redding’s 250th anniversary is being held on November 28 at 6pm. Our RES community is invited to come at 5:30 to share a meal, and there will be a kid-friendly activity happening during the lecture, so don’t hesitate to bring the whole family.

The approximately 45 minute lecture from town historian, Charley Couch, will begin in the 20th century and bring us to the present day. There will be time for a Q&A session afterwards, so bring your thinking caps and learn more about our amazing hometown!

If you’re interested, sign up online here — we look forward to learning with you!

Attitude of Gratitude: Act Local at the Redding Food Pantry.

In our last post about thankfulness, we talked about some ideas for raising grateful kids, particularly in this season of bounty. One of our suggestions was to reach out to our awesome local Redding Food Pantry. We spoke with Redding’s Social Services Director, Angelica Fontanez to learn more about how kids can help and what she wants our RES community to know. 

Right here in Redding, there are 46 households receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) benefits, and many of the Redding Food Pantry clients receive this support. However, others do not. Keeping in mind that the pantry serves many who do get the SNAP benefit is important, though, because those benefits can’t be used for may household necessities like soap, household cleansers, dish washing liquid, laundry detergent, toothpaste, shampoo, paper towels, toilet paper, facial tissues, and much more. All those everyday non-food items that are so important to keeping our house and person clean and safe are not included. This makes them a very special and ongoing priority for our Redding Food Pantry. A great way to involve your RES student in thinking about this is to have them make a list (a picture list of a written list!) of all the things they use throughout the day to make themselves ready for school or to go to bed that aren’t food, then make that into your standard food pantry supply list.

Another exercise Ms. Fontanez encouraged our students to do is, observe the prep and cooking for their favorite meal. What kind of ingredients did we need to make it? Did we use oil? Spices? Salt? Aluminum foil? Those kinds of basic pantry staples are other consistent needs. The food pantry always needs cooking oils, spices and condiments, as well as basic household cooking items like foil or plastic bags. Often people donate the inexpensive box of pasta but don’t bring in pasta sauce or olive oil, for example, Even when it comes to boxed mac and cheese, food pantry clients need perishable dairy items to make it, so consider donating a store gift card so they can get the butter and milk (as well as fresh veggies, fruits, meats and fish that everyone enjoys!).

Kids might enjoy making a list of their favorite snacks — food pantry clients are just the same as every other person, in that they enjoy snacks and treats on occasion, and those who are food insecure may not have the chance to have many treats. Consider making one of your donation choices a winter treat like nice hot cocoa, cookies, tasty crackers, and fancy tea. Getting food from a food pantry can mean eating a lot of generic food that isn’t richly flavored. Encourage your children to choose items to donate that they would themselves like to receive. Ms. Fontanez suggested thinking of the donation as being like buying a snack for a friend to share — you want to get a truly nice, generous snack for your friend, not just try and buy the cheapest thing possible! Involving your RES student in the shopping process is a great way to get started.

For RES community members interested in doing something a little different, Ms. Fontanez suggested making a monetary donation to Redding Shares the Warmth, a program that gives financial assistance to Redding households for electric and oil bills. While there are federal and state programs to help with these bills as well, they have a lengthy and elaborate approval process, and this can bridge that gap. It can also cover those who do not qualify or who have a short-term emergency need. The applicants for this program rose dramatically last year (from an average of 24 households to 37) and that trend may continue this year, so you can help your Redding neighbors stay warm by writing a check, made payable to the Town of Redding, with a note on the memo line saying, “RSW.” It can be dropped off at the Community Center with Ms. Fontanez, or mailed to PO Box 118, Redding, CT 06875.

Is your kid excited to share his gratitude and help people locally? What about helping your child organize a NEIGHBORHOOD FOOD DRIVE? While Redding has notoriously unwalkable neighborhoods (as we all remember at Halloween time!), why not ask a few neighbors near you to do a mini-food drive for the Redding Food Pantry? Your RES student could explain the problem of hunger to your neighbors on a personal level and ask for donations. After collecting items, your child then could organize the donations that are received. It’s important to check expiration dates — Ms. Fontanez mentioned that they often get donations that have expired items that can’t be consumed, and your child could be a real help by weeding these items out for disposal and recycling. The final step would be organizing the items by food type, turning cash donations into grocery store gift cards and bringing it all in to the Community Center during business hours Monday through Thursday, or before noon on Fridays.

So if you’re thankful for all you have this year, help your child see that in action with our Redding Food Pantry.

Here’s a great article from a food bank director talking about how kids can help, if you’d like to read more!

Attitude of Gratitude: Raising Thankful Kids.

Image result for thanksgivingAs we enter the winter holiday rush, it’s a time for many families to reflect on all the good fortune they have. But not all kids are naturally programmed to understand that “more!” shouldn’t be their life’s motto. How do we make sure our kids are bringing their attitude of gratitude into this season of abundance?

Experts say that instilling behaviors of thankfulness year round is the most important thing we can do. Always prompting kids to thank people in their lives, and it’s also vital to take time to thank our kids when they do something great. Setting expectations about consumption and shopping is a great way to teach kids that things aren’t just always handed to them, but that such gifts are special and deserve a special thanks.

A special tradition might be to start a gratitude jar over Thanksgiving break. Here are some ideas for making that happen: a how to for making the jar itself; another, more basic idea for creating the jar and set-up; a reflection on using a gratitude jar over the year; some ideas on how to get your kids excited about keeping a gratitude jar for the long term;

Outside the family unit, taking time to thank those who serve in all capacities. Thanking those in our Armed Forces, teachers, public servants, the pastry chef at their favorite bakery, bus drivers, the Target cashier, librarians, the UPS delivery person, a babysitter…whoever makes an impact in your family’s life. It would be a great Thanksgiving week activity to draw pictures or write notes to thank these special people who make your kid’s life better, and then hand them out during the winter holiday season.

You can also make volunteering and donating both time and your material resources a family affair. Seeing the importance of giving back to our community helps kids understand gratitude beyond the personal, and allows them to start being grateful for chance to do for others. RES families already know that we are finishing up our PTA Turkey Drive this week — for the next THREE DAYS your child can bring in a check (perhaps with some of their allowance contributed towards the effort) made​ ​payable​ ​to​ ​RES​ ​PTA,​ ​with the memo noted as, “​Thanksgiving​ ​Drive.” It should be in an envelope c/o L. Micola in ​Mrs.​ ​Welp’s​ ​room. The goal is to ensure every family in Redding can enjoy a hearty Thanksgiving meal.

In addition to the PTA Turkey Drive, your child’s allowance provides a great learning opportunity about gratitude and sharing what we have our whole lives. You can either make or buy a bank that divides a child’s allowance into three parts, and your child can help research and choose charities to which they can donate their “give” money. Ask your child what she’s grateful for, and ask her what she’d like to help others achieve or do. It’s a great chance to talk about why we give and what our values are. You might be surprised by you kids’ responses!

For hands-on volunteer activities, think about reaching out to DAWS, the Redding Food Pantry or other charities important to your family, and ask how your child can actively support their mission. Whether it’s helping to run a winter coat drive, helping do laundry for those in need, walking dogs that need a home, helping refugees study English or serving meals to the hungry, there’s a lot kids can do! Here’s some other ideas for wider Fairfield County. Homeless shelters in the county are a great place to start in this cold season — just call and ask how you can help!

Looking for more ideas for a grateful life? Here’s some activities (including that gratitude jar again!) to try out this year! And watch out for our upcoming post focused on our Redding Food Pantry, coming soon, to learn all the ways your family can practice gratitude and share your bounty locally!