Family

A week or so ago, I made a post on social media letting my friends know just how close we are to some of the upcoming holidays. Multiple people responded saying I was causing them stress, thinking too far ahead or pushing the seasons.

Fall is by far my favorite time of the year. Despite what the calendar and weather may say, for me the fall season starts with the arrival of school supplies and runs through the New Year Holiday. Many of my favorite activities and celebrations happen between August and Jan. 1 – football games, visits to apple orchards and pumpkin patches, and holiday celebrations. Most of us have multiple special events that happen in this time of year.

While these are my favorite months, I recognize that they can also be stressful times. Simply getting kids back into school routines can be disruptive to families — let alone the pressures of planning for and implementing major family events. I’d like to share a process you can use to lessen the stress that comes in the busy months ahead.

1. Create a fall affirmation. I encourage each of you to work with your family to identify a simple statement or select a single word, which clearly identifies what you want for your family in the next months. This word or statement is your fall affirmation. It will serve as an ongoing reminder to each of you what is most important to your family. I’m guessing if we were to compare fall affirmations, we would see themes. Words like family, togetherness and tradition will likely be among the most common.

2. Post your affirmation. Write your affirmation down and put it around your house in places where everyone will see it. Put a copy of it in the middle of your kitchen table, on the bathroom mirror or on the dashboard of your car. As you go through the next few months, ask one another, "Are we staying focused on what we said is most important to our family?"

3. Use your affirmation to help you make family decisions. The months ahead are busy. There will be multiple demands on your time and talents. Use your affirmation to prioritize what goes on your family calendar and identify what tasks to complete. When you get an invitation to an event, ask yourselves, "Does attending this event bring us closer to what we said was most important for our family? How does this event relate to our affirmation?" Events and tasks that align to your affirmation become top priorities on your calendar. If an event does not align well to your affirmation, ask yourselves, "Is this something we can skip or can we say no?"

While this strategy will help you lessen the stress of the next few months, it will also have longer lasting benefits. By engaging your children in these discussions you are teaching them how to identify values and make decisions based upon those values. They are learning to pause and ask themselves, "How does the option in front of me align to what’s most important to me and what’s most important to my family?"

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Scott Butler has been a professional educator for 30 years. He has worked as a classroom teacher, school counselor and school administrator. Additionally, Scott is a licensed mental health practitioner. He is currently the director of the Boys Town Day School. He is father to four kids ranging from 14 to 22. Outside of work, he is an avid gardener and quilter.

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