The theme this month is Letting Go. The elementary children will experience each workshop once during the month. Use this guide to help with conversations about the experience in a particular week.
13th St Playhouse - Letting Go of Perfection
If you look closely at a tree you'll notice its knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully. — Matthew Fox, theologian
We reflected on Unitarian Universalism's celebration of each individual—imperfections and all. We taught that children need not be "perfect" to be loved, respected, and appreciated for their own unique gifts. A tale from India , "The Water Bearer's Garden," demonstrated that our very flaws can have corresponding gifts. Children learned about scientific "accidents" that resulted in inventions we enjoy today such as the Slinky and floating Ivory soap. Each child made a "cracked pot" to take home and remember the beauty of imperfection. This link
will tell you more about the scientific accidents.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER.
What do you perceive as your flaws? In what way could they be seen or experienced as gifts?
A FAMILY GAME
Turn your imperfections into blessings. Allow each family member to suggest their own "flaw" for the others to help them re-frame as a gift. For example, someone who is often told they are "annoying" may also be very funny or be able to cheer someone up when doing the very same behaviors. Someone who gives family members too many instructions—"bossy"—may also be caring, knowledgeable, or responsible. Someone whose messy room is legendary is likely also to be easygoing or creative.
Parents who wonder if they expect too much "perfection" from their children may like to read The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel (New York: Penguin, 2001). Mogel is a clinical psychologist who found, in Jewish tradition, meaningful guidance for contemporary parenting. In a 2006 article about her, the New York Times Magazine says:
There is a Hasidic saying that Mogel quotes, 'If your child has a talent to be a baker, don't ask him to be a doctor.' By definition, most children cannot be at the top of the class; value their talents in whatever realm you find them. 'When we ignore a child's intrinsic strengths in an effort to push [them] toward our notion of extraordinary achievement, we are undermining God's plan,' Mogel writes.
Kaleidoscope - Letting Go of Anger
If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person's life, sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The children heard a story about two friends who journey across the desert. During an argument one of the friends slaps the other in anger. The friend who had been slapped writes in the sand, "Today my best friend slapped me." The wind quickly blows the words away. Later the friend who had slapped the other saves him from drowning. This time the man carves in stone, "Today my best friend saved me." We shared this story to teach about forgiveness, and the value in letting go of past hurts and focusing on the kindnesses others have done us. After the story, the children had a chance to write their own hurts and kindnesses in sand and stone.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER
In order to forgive ourselves or others, we need to remember that we all make mistakes and that we needn't be perfect to be deserving of love. Your child will bring home a lump of clay on which he/she has written about an act of kindness that they want to remember. Ask them to share about it. Explore as a family ways in which you forgive each other for small things every day, and how that experience of choosing love over holding grudges allows people to be in relationship.
EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER.
Notice opportunities to practice forgiveness. Discuss together with your child what is needed to let go of anger and grudges toward another.
A FAMILY RITUAL
Using construction paper or clay, ask everyone in the family to identify someone outside of the family that they hold a grudge against. Choose situations that you will feel safe tackling with your family. Have each person make a "grudge." Imagine what they might look like, small ugly trolls, or amorphous blobs, or hot coals. Share them with one another, stating what they are for. Acknowledge that forgiving is not the same as forgetting. Forgiving frees the heart of the one who has been hurt not to have to carry the bad feelings anymore. It does not mean that that person has to be your best friend. Make a ritualized saying, such as: This grudge is for ___ who did such and such. I will try to remember that they are only human. I may have hurt someone in this way too. I chose forgiveness and I no longer wish to carry this grudge.
Then have a ritualistic burning, throwing away or shredding of the grudges, followed by some kind of celebrating that makes everyone feel good. This might include having everyone share about something nice that someone did for them this week either on paper, on clay or through story sharing. You can also skip the "grudges" and focus only on the kind deeds. Or, focus on experiences of being forgiven.
Rhythm & Roll - Letting Go of Stress
When my anger's over
may the world be young again
as after rain —
the cool clean promise
and the dance
of branches glistening green
— Raymond John Baughan, in Day of Promise: Collected Meditations, Kathleen Montgomery, ed. (Skinner House, 2001); used with permission
We affirmed that anger is a normal, healthy feeling. While not particularly pleasant, it is our body's way of alerting us to problems. Anger can give us the energy we need to right wrongs. Nevertheless, as you know, it can get too big. Raging out of control, anger can be expressed in hurtful ways and hurts the person holding it. Children learned to recognize their anger, reduce its hold on them, and harness it constructively.
Yoga can be used as a tool to release anger or stress.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER.
How we respond with love to our own anger, and to others who are angry. Ask your child(ren) about:
- The yoga exercises
- The Calming Beads children made, and how to use them
- Ways they know to respond to someone who is angry, or what they do when they are angry.
- Three Choices to Reduce Anger: Describes three strategies children (and adults) can use to slow down the body's reaction to anger. Try the strategies together and talk about when and how you can use them.
Explore these online resources:
A Missouri Families article, "Helping Children Deal With Anger At Friends." Great information on the KidsHealth website about all kinds of issues related to being and feeling healthy.
The website of Seattle-based Committee for Children offers information, curricula, and videos on violence prevention, impulse control, and conflict resolution for use in K-8 classrooms, and links to fiction for children, arranged by age and grade, on topics including impulse control, anger buttons, identifying feelings, problem solving, and keeping out of a fight.
Parents Anonymous is a well-established family strengthening program designed to help all parents find ways to manage their own anger and create a safe nurturing home environment for their kids. Parents Anonymous groups meet in communities throughout the United States. Anyone in a parenting role can join at any time and can attend for as long as they wish.
Books with stories and guidance about anger management include: Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents by Sarah Conover (Eastern Washington University Press, 2001), What to Do When Your Temper Flares: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Problems With Anger by Dawn Huebner (Magination Press, 2008), A Volcano in My Tummy: Helping Children to Handle Anger by Elaine Whitehouse and Warwick Pudney (New Society Publishers, 1996), and How to Take the Grrr Out of Anger by Elizabeth Verdick and Marjorie Lisoviskis (Free Spirit Publishing, 2003).
A Family Ritual.
Buddhist practice includes meditation. Try meditation as a family, perhaps guiding simple stretching or movements followed by a few minutes of silence. You will find that this serves your children well prior to devoted time to concentration, for example, homework.
Incredible Edible Lab - Letting Go of Judgment
The children took part in a continuum exercise about their preferences and feelings about a variety of items and activities. It is okay to not be like everyone else and it is okay to not judge ourselves against others.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER.
We don’t have to like all of the same things to be friends. Ask your children about:
- Lining up by preference for ice cream, school, shopping and more
- Selecting a snack based on how it looks
- Making and tasting a chocolate cake made with an unusual ingredient
Try one of these ideas:
A chocolate cake made with tomato or mayonnaise. A fruit smoothie including carrot juice or peanut butter. Look for and make a tasty recipe that uses an unlikely ingredient that, on its own, would not appeal to your child. Talk about how the recipe gives the unlikely ingredient a way to share its special gifts.