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Peace On Earth... Especially At Home

December 7, 2009
Times Observer
BY LINDA SWANSON, RETIRED ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL

While I was trying to put into one word the holiday atmosphere I wanted to emphasize for December’s PG Magazine I encountered an inspiring sermon at church. Our pastor recently moved to this area, he shared with us that in all the rush of moving he just hadn’t found the time to get his television hooked up. The most important fact he shared about this was the personal impact he felt the lack of television had had on him. He said that he actually felt more peaceful without all the unhappiness and unrest available through the news or other programming on TV. He wasn’t even promoting not watching TV he was just sharing a rewarding personal experience. I think that being at peace is often misunderstood. Peace is a good thing why else would we focus on it at such a wondrous time as Christmas? Peaceful people sometimes are described by others as timid or one with limited or ignoring emotions. Rather, I think it means controlling emotions and preventing their causing hurt to other people. For children, especially concerning all the conflicts about our world, peace is an important element in their well being. Children need calmness, and -serenity. It gives them a kind of security. A peaceful home is a haven for all ages and a precious gift to give our children.

The ability to be peaceful has double value. It helps others as well as ourselves to feel better and to function better. It really can be a contagious quality. As you develop it within yourself, it is “caught” by others around you……particularly by your children. Hearing peaceful solutions instead of criticism is a good trend setter and one that soon will be repeated.

I had the opportunity to be with my husband’s cousin Jane and her three sons this summer. She made an outstandingly calming comment to her boys, when I heard it I remarked, “Wow, that sounded just like something Jean (her cousin and my sister-in-law) would have said”. Jane, in her wisdom looked at me and said, “Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that our mothers were sisters.” How telling that a peaceful manner truly has been sustained from generation to generation.

Just like any other fine quality, there are ways to create a peaceful atmosphere in your home. Try to enhance the setting in which you live and teach this value. Here are a few ideas to improve the peacefulness in your home. A) Play restful music – much classical music, simply in the background pretty much unnoticed, creates a feeling of order, peace and calmness; B) Control the tone and decibel level of your own voice. Yelling accomplishes little and instantly punctures a peaceable atmosphere; C) Touch others in your family. We tend to talk more softly when we touch; put a hand on a shoulder or arm as you speak to someone. D) Give your child some quiet time. During this solace they should understand that it’s not a time out. It’s a time to pre-program themselves; deciding in advance to be peaceful at the dinner table or while playing a family fable game. Many adults use their drive to and from work as their pre-programming time. Now you are probably picturing a haven you think is impossible to create. Truly, I’m not suggesting lack of noise and activity, just work on the extremes. After all, healthy conversation and laughter is good medicine for all of us. Sometimes it helps to look at the environment from a child’s view. There is a great deal we adults tune out and children tune into. Be sure that your child has the opportunity to express a loss of peaceful feeling they might be experiencing. Talk their feelings over in a way to help them subside as opposed to squelching them as if they are unimportant. Consider what world event, conflicts, etc. might be presented on your television or car radio. Turmoil continually watched and listened to can be far more than what is necessary or appropriate at any age. It is unreasonable to think we could shelter our children from all or any controversial news but when they do hear of news that isn’t peaceful answer their questions honestly, giving facts and reassurance and ideas for a positive future. Let your children know that you will help them deal with anything that worries them. Take time to notice beauty and goodness and experience the joy of the day with your children. The world may have some frightening happenings but it is also filled with beauty and virtues and many loving people. Be sure to be available to your children when they ask, never minimize their worries or requests for you to accompany them somewhere where you had thought they might want to venture alone. Growing older doesn’t necessarily make us braver – because, after all, many new experiences and responsibilities seem greater than what they have experienced before. Support and be with your child as much as possible. The presence of a loving parent is the single most powerful force in a child’s life. There are even some games that help promote peaceful behavior. Perhaps that’s why they were designed so many years ago. Young children may benefit from the all time favorite the stillness contest. I’m sure you’ve played it. It’s all about who can go the longest without speaking or moving. Or, if a child feels like they are not able to control a negative emotion suggest they count to ten. Teach your young child a phrase that will help him or her be peaceful instead of argumentative. Some all time favorites include: “ Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” and “A soft answer turns away wrath.” These techniques are something they can learn to do independently. If you have adolescents you may want to challenge them to the AA approach. When he/she feels argumentative try to analyze why the person said or did what he did. Point out that analyzing is better because we learn something whenever we try to figure out why. Another approach is using the win-win vocabulary. Young teens find it challenging (as in an opportunity to compete) to design a plan to agree that benefits everyone. Finally, remember to commend, commend and commend your children when you see and hear them working towards a more peaceful environment and life style. A weekly family “peacemaker” award (as simple as a sign on a bedroom door) may be motivating to the entire family. One of my greatest feelings of peace is when we first set up our Christmas tree and I just sit in the room, in the dark, with the tree lit, pondering the wonder of the Christmas season. Maybe that’s why I never want to take it down. Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year!

Jann Ball is the Director of the Compeer Program in Chautauqua County that provides friendship to youth and adults experiencing mental health difficulties. Jann resides in Falconer with her husband Marshall and son Michael.

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