How do we help our children grow to be happy, healthy, socially-connected adults? I get asked this question a lot in my work with children, and this is what I tell them…by creating stability, safety, and meaningful experiences for your child.

I remember the first day my oldest son went to kindergarten. Like many mom’s, I cried. I was flooded with a mix of emotions including pride, fear, worry, and excitement. Had I prepared him enough? Would he adapt? Would he enjoy school? What if he gets picked on?  You know that feeling…that uncertainty that comes with being a parent.

Fast forward to this Christmas. He is now 21 years old, lives on his own, is gainfully employed, and  has a wonderful girlfriend. This will be his first year getting his own Christmas tree and he was telling me that his girlfriend wanted an artificial tree. He said “Mom, I give in on a lot of things when we disagree but I’m not flexing on this one”. You see, getting a live Christmas tree is a HUGE family tradition we have had since I was a baby…53 years ago.

Every Saturday after Thanksgiving, my parents would take us out to breakfast then to a tree farm to cut the perfect tree. Once we found it, we would head home where the tradition continued. Dad, and only Dad, would put the lights on. Then Mom and us kids would put on the decorations. All the while, Andy Williams, Perry Como, and Bing Crosby were singing carols in the background. That tradition launched our holiday season and created excitement like no other.

Once I married and started having children of my own, I continued the tradition as did all of my siblings. This past Saturday, 19 of us (our family has grown over the years) trekked to Windy Hill tree farm for the perfect tree after bombarding Sister’s Century House for a delicious breakfast. Now my son is doing the same. I can’t describe the feelings of pride, satisfaction, and contentment I had when he made this a priority because those family traditions created connectedness, stability, and a felt sense of safety for my children. As a parent, there is nothing more rewarding, prideful, or gratifying than knowing your child is happy.

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