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Let Kids Know It's Important To Share Holiday Time

By Thelma Domenici
For the Journal
          Dear Thelma: When my daughter came home from college for winter break last year, I barely saw her. She was constantly busy with boyfriend and friends. I understand that she's an adult and can choose to spend her time as she wishes, but I also feel like she should show some consideration for her family. I plan to tell her that this year. Do you have suggestions on how to broach the subject?
        A: I believe your situation is a common one. I know other parents of college students who bend over backward to get their children across the country and home for the holidays. Everything in the home is focused on that college kid coming home. Then when he is home, his parents never see him. And in what seems like an instant, he's back at school. It would be nice if that college kid could just hang out with his parents a bit.
        I would encourage college students coming home to recognize the anticipation that fills the hearts of those you're coming home to. Weave into your schedule balance and appreciation for those left at home while you're on your grand adventure. Your parents don't want to demand your time, but offering them some of it would be a respectful and loving thing to do.
        Approach your daughter as the adult she is. Let her know before she comes home the events you have planned, invite her to take part and let her know how much you and others in the family would like to spend time with her.
        Make some solid plans — whether it's a special family dinner in or out, seeing a movie together or a taking shopping trip. Get them into her schedule so that when the invitations start coming from friends the moment she walks in the door, some of her time is already set aside.
        Treat her with love and respect and expect it to come back to you.
        Dear Thelma: My kids are moving into their teens, and it's getting harder to keep them engaged in family time. As Christmas approaches, I feel their participation in our traditions is important and shows respect and courtesy for our family. How do I encourage and teach this kind of respect?
        A: Your holiday traditions are probably more important to your teens than you realize. Traditions help us all to define "who I am" and "where I fit" — important questions teens are in the midst of discovering.
        You know you can't eliminate their need to spend time with friends, but you can let them know that they are an important part of the family celebration. Treat them more like adults than children as you plan for the holidays. Respect their plans, but also ask and expect them to make time for family plans as well.
        Talk about the responsibility they can take for your traditions. Offer each of your children a tradition for which to be responsible. Offer help when it's needed, but do your best to let them embrace the responsibility and be an important part of carrying the tradition forward.
        If you have a kid who has always loved the Christmas tree, put him in charge of pulling it out of storage and setting it up. If you have a new driver in the house, ask her to chauffeur the traditional Christmas light tour. This may be a year when you can sit back and really enjoy your traditions while someone else covers the logistics.
        The holidays are a magical time because they make all of us — young and old — more open to and aware of sharing our love. We must take the time to do it.
        Helping our children grow and good manners never go out of style.
        Have a question about etiquette? You can ask it at www.askthelma.com. Thelma Domenici is CEO of Thelma Domenici & Associates, offering corporate coaching and contemporary social skills development programs to all ages.

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