Pre-Christmas purge: Tips to help kids declutter

This past week-end, my daughter tackled her annual ‘pre-Christmas purge’.  Before my daughter completes her ‘Christmas Wish List’, I have her go through her stuff (toys, crafts, etc.) and weed out what she no longer plays with.  Before Christmas and her birthday tend to be a good time to go through this exercise as, generally speaking, the idea of giving things away is somewhat easier when she knows there will be new things to take their place.

Having said that, she has been doing this for years now and does a pretty good job of ‘decluttering’.  Truth is, she doesn’t really mind the process, since it gives her an opportunity to ‘find’ things she had ‘lost’ or reacquaint herself with things she had forgotten she even had.  When she was done, both she and I had a much better idea of what should and shouldn’t be on her Christmas list.

Although she will perform this task on her own, her preference is for me to keep her company (after all, it’s more fun when you’re not alone).  Truth is, it’s probably not a bad idea to be on hand so that you can provide some direction (and possibly a little focus…there’s a tendency to get distracted and end up playing more than purging).  Having said that, it’s a good idea to make it a little fun, so that they aren’t turned off of the process completely.  A little music and dancing can’t hurt!

I have my daughter divide things into piles – one for keeping, one for throwing away/recycling and one for giving to charity (thrift stores always appreciate donations at this time of year).  Once she’s done sorting things into piles, it’s the perfect time to take the things she is keeping and to neatly organize them before she puts them away.  Remember, you may love your child’s closet to look like it came out of the pages of Good Housekeeping magazine, but you might want to lower your standards a bit.  Imposing an impossible standard of tidiness on your child is only going to frustrate both you and your child and cause a rift in your relationship (it’s best to choose your battles carefully).

I came across this infographic today (too bad I didn’t see it earlier!) and thought it would be helpful for anyone who is looking to declutter.  When your children are doing their pre-Christmas purge, use these questions to help guide their decisions and teach them decluttering skills that they can use for many years to come.

Need to #declutter ? #realestate

Click here to read this article in detail.

Let’s be honest, most kids aren’t going to love going through their belongings and making decisions about what to keep and what to give away (to be perfectly honest, it’s not my favorite thing, either), but these ‘decluttering skills’ will benefit them throughout their lives (we’ve all watched shows on hoarding and seen the impact on peoples’ lives).

If you’re interested in teaching your children organization and personal responsibility, you may also wish to read my post on ‘Teaching responsibility at home: Implementing an after-school routine’.

Dealing with nightmares

Have you ever found yourself face-to-face at 3:00 in the morning, with a child who has just had a nightmare?

Some kids are more prone to nightmares.  I must admit, I was one of them (I remember watching a movie about Dracula and The Werewolf at a friend’s house and having nightmares for weeks afterwards – I can still picture parts of the movie, some 35 years later).  I learned pretty quickly that I should keep my distance from anything that was creepy or disturbing or I would pay for my transgression in lost sleep (and so would my poor Mom).

My daughter didn’t “fall far from the tree”, as they say (this time though, I was the Mommy being awakened in the middle of the night).  She is pretty sensitive to sad and/or scary stories and images and, although she rarely chooses to be subjected to them if given an option, the choice is not always hers to make (ironically, the worst offenders are movies or videos she sees at school).

Initially when she had a nightmare, I was very tempted to just have her crawl into bed with us, or to grab my pillow and plop down on the floor beside her bed, but I stopped myself from giving in to this urge (I really didn’t want to encourage a strategy that would more than likely result in a lousy sleep for both her and us).  Plus, although these ‘solutions’ would definitely be easier in the short term, what about the next time she was awakened by a nightmare, and the time after that?  Wouldn’t both she and I be better off in the long term if, instead of making her dependent on me, I taught her how to calm herself down and put herself back to sleep?

This wasn’t going to happen overnight, but I had to start sometime.  Truthfully, I wasn’t really sure what would work (I’m sure it varies by the individual), so my plan was to give her a number of strategies and then, over time, she could identify the ones that worked best for her.

When she came into my room to tell me that she had had a nightmare, I would gently take her back to her bedroom and have her get into bed, so that she was in the right state of mind to go back to sleep.  I would then sit at the edge of her bed, gently rub her back and ‘try out’ any techniques that I could think of.  Here are some tips and techniques for dealing with nightmares that I tried out, with varying degrees of success (I mention even those that didn’t work for my daughter, as what works for your child may be different that what works for mine)…

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  • turned over her pillow so that her nightmare ‘disappeared’ (some kids also like the feel of the cool pillowcase)
  • asked her if there was a favourite stuffie that she would like to cuddle with in bed and keep her company
  • had her ‘replay’ the nightmare but this time have something silly happen (e.g. the ‘bad guys’ are wearing polka-dotted underwear and tutus or they trip and fall into the mud)
  • hung a dreamcatcher close to her bed to ‘catch’ any bad dreams
  • had her think about things that she loves to do (e.g. playing with the neighbour’s dog or making a LEGO creation) – this distracts her mind and gets it thinking about more pleasant things
  • had her think about things that make her laugh (e.g. a funny video that she saw)
  • put the light on in the hall so that it didn’t seem quite so dark and scary

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Once I determined the strategies that worked best for my daughter (her favourites were the dreamcatcher, the stuffie and thinking about things that she loved to do), I got to the point where I only needed to walk her back into her room, get her settled, and put the strategies into her head (e.g. “would it help to sleep with Snuggles tonight” or “think about the last time you played with Cocoa and the fun you had”).  I would then assure her that she was OK and that I was nearby, and go back to bed.  As she practiced the techniques herself, she required less and less ‘coaching’ from me and went back to sleep more readily.

Imagine how thrilled I was the other day, when my daughter told me that she had been awakened by a nightmare and that she had simply grabbed her favourite doll, hugged her close and went back to sleep (and I was none the wiser!).

One small victory for her and I!