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The Holiday Brady Bunch: Blending Families

December 9, 2013

By Sunny P. Chico

The Holiday Brady Bunch

Holidays are about spending time together as a family and celebrating. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re always growing and changing. One of the things I love most about my own family is how it grew over the years to include some of the people I now hold most dear. When my husband and I married, I was blessed with what I call my three bonus daughters from my husband’s first marriage, while I brought with me my two children from my first marriage.

To be honest, I never had a big conflict. We may not always see eye-to-eye on different things, but as I can attest, the same is true for mothers and daughters everywhere. Even though my stepdaughters were raised Jewish and my children are Catholic, we celebrate holidays through our cultures and the uniqueness of our religions. 

So, during this time of the year when families get together, how do you avoid conflict between blended families?

  • Be patient. I remember our first Christmas together as a blended family. I made my traditional Christmas dinner: a Cuban meal. My husband’s girls, who at the time were 10 and 11 year-olds, wouldn’t have any of this. Now, about thirteen years later, this meal has become one of their favorite meals of the year!
  • Learn about other customs. Don’t make your new family members do anything they don’t want to do and instead try to make them feel welcome. Make sure that you are taking the time to learn about their customs and try, as much as you can, to be a part of them. Christmas is about celebrating each other’s uniqueness, cultures, and beliefs. But most of all, it is about celebrating each other and the gift of family.
  • Create new memories. This doesn’t mean you have to abandon old ones, though. You can come up with new traditions like a family sleepover on Christmas Eve, for example. In my family, everybody expects my famous breakfast quiche on the morning of the 25. It has become a true family tradition!

Remember why you are together. If there are major conflicts, remember that this isn’t just because you are a blended family. All kinds of families have issues. There’s a lot of stress during the holidays and at a certain point conflicts are normal. Remember to respect each other’s differences and remember what you love about each other.

Understanding and a true sense of family don’t happen overnight. I can’t stress enough that this takes time and you need to be patient and consistent. Family is forged through our shared joys and struggles. Be there for each other and you will grow stronger together. It can and will happen!  

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Hanukkah Lessons for All Ages

December 2, 2013

By Stefanie Boron

Hanukkah Lessons for All Ages

As you may know, this year in a rare alignment of calendars, the first day of Hanukkah occurred on the same night as Thanksgiving.  Someone even coined the term Thanksgivukkah! Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of each November. The Jewish calendar determines Jewish holidays so the dates change from year to year. Some years Hanukkah coincides with Christmas and sometimes it is earlier in December, but overlapping with Thanksgiving is extremely rare.

This occurrence might have changed the way some families celebrated Hanukkah this year, but our family chose to keep the holidays separate and celebrate Hanukkah a few days later. We still lit the menorah on Thanksgiving but didn’t combine the dishes or traditions. There wasn’t any sweet potato kugel or pumpkin matzo ball soup at my Thanksgiving table!

Hanukkah is referred to as the Festival of Lights, as we light Hanukkah candles to remember the miracle of the oil. When the flame in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was out, only enough oil could be found to relight it for one day, but the oil lasted for eight days. Because of this miracle, Hanukkah is a celebration of faith and hope.

Children and adults alike enjoy Hanukkah. Take the time this holiday season to celebrate the miracles in our lives.

  • Make it special. So there isn’t a Christmas tree, but there are lights and presents! Decorate the house, bring out the Menorahs and dreidels and invite family and friends over to celebrate. It is our holiday season as well, so enjoy!
  • Cook traditional food. Traditional foods are potato pancakes with applesauce or sour cream and chocolate Hanukkah gelt, which are chocolate coins. Latkes are fried in the oil that we are celebrating and remembering on this holiday.
  • Spin the dreidel. The Hebrew letters on the dreidel stand for: A Great Miracle Happened There. Players usually play for pennies or Hanukkah gelt.
  • Celebrate all eight days. We celebrate for eight days because that was the duration of the miracle of the oil burning. Each night we light the menorah and say the prayers. We also exchange presents. Some families give presents every night, while some have one big Hanukkah celebration similar to Christmas morning.

After I get my shopping done I always look forward to Hanukkah! My house smells like potato latkes for days, but it is worth it!

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Teaching Your Child Language and Culture

November 11, 2013

By Amelia Orozco

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As a parent, you have the power to control most of your child’s education. You can broaden the way your child interacts and learns in a primarily English-speaking school by exposing him or her to different languages and cultures at home.

To help your child understand another language, start by integrating words from the second language into English sentences. Work the new language into your child’s vocabulary by considering: 

  • Same and Different
    Point out similarities and differences in the words. 
  • Fun Sounds
    Sound out words that feel fun to say. Like singing, this helps your child learn the word’s meaning and the reason to use the word. 
  • Use the Senses
    Let your child touch, taste, smell, feel, and see things that relate to the word. It will help your child permanently remember the words better. 
  • Connect to Culture
    Connect the word’s cultural meaning by taking a field trip, leafing through a magazine, or listening to a song.

By naturally incorporating another culture’s practices—not just its language—into your child’s life, he or she develops not only a bilingual vocabulary, but also a comfort in the unfamiliar and a taste for adventure. To help your child learn more about different cultures: 

  • Eat
    Try new foods unique to a different culture. Explain which cultures eat that cuisine and show your child where the food comes from on a map.
  • Dance
    Learn a traditional dance routine with your child and talk about where the culture performs that type of dance. For example, your child can learn the different reasons that people dance by showing your child la plena, where the dance and song act as a live newspaper for the town. 
  • Listen
    Listen to traditional music connected to that language’s culture. Your child will learn different sounds. If you know the instruments that make those sounds, you can also teach them about music. 
  • Surf and Watch
    Many online sources feature videos that teach children other languages. Children’s television stations offer programming that teaches children vocabulary in other languages and exposes them to different cultural traditions, like Dora the Explorer. Start with stations like Nickelodeon, The Disney Channel, or PBS. 

Finding cultural meaning expands your child’s worldview. The varied environment you provide at home will establish a strong foundation for the learning experiences ahead.

 

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.

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Thanksgiving Lessons for Kids

November 11, 2013

By Amelia Orozco

Thanksgiving Lessons for Kids

New learning opportunities for your children abound on a typical day, but when a special holiday approaches, it can be one of the most memorable ways to teach some of life’s greatest lessons. A holiday such as Thanksgiving can provide abundant ways to learn. From teaching its origin through stories and activities to developing emotional and social activities that, in time, become cherished lifelong traditions, you can use this time to connect with your child in meaningful ways.

If your family or your children were not born or raised in the United States, it is a great way to learn Thanksgiving facts and traditions. Appreciating the intricate details of history makes for a greater understanding of your immediate community and the world.

Here are some ideas of Thanksgiving activities for you and your child to enjoy together: 

Tell Stories
Share the story of the first Thanksgiving dinner with the original English settlers and Native Americans. This story can help even your youngest child remember the true meaning of the holiday. Use words like “exploration,” “feast,” “celebration,” “families,” “neighbors,” and “sharing” when discussing the story. In my family, we pause before each meal, whether it is a holiday or not, to reflect on what we have, which makes it a more natural practice at Thanksgiving. See National Geographic Kids for a brief story, which includes photos of people and artifacts.

Give Thanks with Notes
As the holiday approaches, hide thank you notes for other members of your family to find, and encourage your children to do the same. These notes can say anything from, “Thank you for taking out the trash,” to “Thank you for being a good listener.”  

Draw Pictures
If your children cannot read or write yet, they can still participate by creating a special picture by tracing leaves and then coloring the shapes in. You can leave them notes with smiley faces. These will remind him or her how much you appreciate them. Read this inspiring article of how writing shapes your child in more ways than you may think.

Donate to Charity
It is also a wonderful time of year to make a list of local charities. Your children can help organize a drive for food, toys, or clothing at their school or playgroup. Inspiring them to take action will make them conscientious citizens who aspire to help others. It is exciting to see how these activities awaken a desire to ask more questions.

Share the Cooking Process
Making a list of ingredients, shopping, and finally, preparing a favorite Thanksgiving recipe will give you together time, a learning opportunity, and unforgettable memories. 

Memories are made through these emotional and social activities, but they are most remembered by the hands-on activities during the holidays. By using age-appropriate tasks, everyone in the family can feel they have contributed to the Thanksgiving feast, and when the food is finally served, it will have taken on a much deeper significance.


Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.

 

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