Wholesome Ways to Prepare for Christmas with Children

By Annie Bryant

Christmas is all about the journey, and here’s some daily rituals and activities to help bring wonder, patience and joy into your family home during the festive season.

Even if you’re not ‘into’ Christmas, it’s very difficult to avoid the busy energy and consumeristic onslaught that unfortunately dominates the Western culture in the lead up to December 25th. I think it was my own massive aversion to this unsavoury aspect of the season that inspired me to research and create wholesome ways to bring Christmas to my own children.

Children LOVE Christmas, and it just didn’t feel right to me as Mother to deprive my boys (or myself) of the wonder and joy and beautiful messages that can be found within the Christmas stories from around the world.

By consciously celebrating the lead up to Christmas in a meaningful way, I find it helps immensely in grounding and connecting our family at a time when packed schedules and neverending to-do lists can otherwise scatter all of our energies!

Read the full article by clicking this link

Finding Christmas – An Australian Christmas Story by Annie Bryant

Where do you find Christmas in your family?
Is it hidden within the pages of your favourite story book?
Maybe it’s wrapped up in a gift made especially for someone you love?
Or perhaps, it can be found amongst the delicious smells of a Christmas feast?
Well, this is the story of a little boy who went on his own search for Christmas….and you’ll
never guess what he found!

Joey had looked everywhere, but still had found no signs of Christmas.

They were staying on his Grandparents farm, way out west for the whole month until after Christmas – and while Joey usually loved the tractor rides and farm adventures – this time he couldn’t help but think about all the ‘Christmassy’ things he was missing out on back home.

First, there was the Christmas Market & the end of year school Concert.

Then, there was the Santa sleighs and giant candy canes and bright lights up and down his street, not to mention the fake snow and happy carols playing in all shops.

But out here on the farm there was no shiny tinsel or red hats to be seen and he was starting to worry that maybe Christmas just wasn’t going to happen at all?!

And he also missed Dad.

Dad was coming to meet Mum and Joey and his little sister May at the farm on Christmas Eve and it felt like such a long time away.

When they chatted on the phone one night Joey whispered his concerns about Christmas and Dad reassured him, “Don’t worry mate, you’ll find Christmas out there – you just need to know where to look.”

But so far, he hadn’t found anything.

So, before bed that night Joey asked Lil-Ma & Jo-Pa in a very serious voice, “Do you know where to find Christmas on your farm?”

His grandparents looked at each other with mischievous smiles before Jo-Pa turned to Joey and replied with a wink, “I think we might have a few ideas.”

Read the full story from talesandsongs.com here

Bridging the Divide – Conversation with Lisa Romero and Jonah Evans

Jonah Evans and Lisa Romero dive into essential questions for our future: the human heart and being of Christ; the moral forces of our humanity in relationship to technology and the spiritual beings connected to it and how this impacts the future of human culture and the earth.

Please click to listen

Online safety tips for parents to keep their kids safe this holiday season

Whether your child is receiving their first device, or they may be online more over the holidays. Remember you wouldn’t give your child the keys to the car and let them drive off down the highway without lessons. It is the same with devices. Here are a few tips which will help you to support your children in navigating the online world better.

1. Talk as a family about what is ok and not ok to share online.

For example:

· Whether any member of the family shares a photo of the house or pet’s name online.

· When to share family holiday photos and what photos can be shared.

· What is not to be shared online.

If your child is receiving their first device, make sure that you get them to do a little presentation or write a small project sheet on cyber safety in the lead up to their first social media apps on the device.

3. Respect the age recommendations; it is not illegal for a child to use social media under the age of 13yrs with their parents’ permission. But they need to remember to update their age on any site that has asked for it when they turn 13yrs. This way, the app will not think they are older. As an extreme example, if your child signs up to use Facebook when they are 10yrs, and they have to lie and say they are 13yr, by the time they are 15yrs, if not corrected, the app will think they are 18yrs. Then they can get a Tinder account as it relies on Facebook for verification!

4. Respect the classifications on games. The average age of a gamer is 34-36yrs old. Classifications are there for a reason. It is not ok for a child under the age of 18yrs to be playing R Rated games even with their parents!!! If your child is playing online games, set healthy boundaries around time playing as well.

5. Teach your kids to think twice before they accept a friend request or chat to a random stranger through a game. Just because someone is a friend of their big brother or sister or cousin who goes to another school does not mean they should let them into their life. Also, talk to them that online, someone may ask to be their online boyfriend or girlfriend (we hear this a lot from primary school-aged children at the moment). If this happens, they need to tell you immediately so that you can help block and report. They never know who they are talking to.

6. Know how to block and report on every app and game your child is using so that you can help when things go wrong if you don’t know how to sit with your child and learn together.

7. Put healthy boundaries in place. Don’t ban them from their device if they forget to do a household chore or are naughty for something unrelated to their device. Do not take it off them if they speak up about something that has happened online because you are scared. This is the quickest way to drive all the conversations that you want to be having underground. Instead, if you have a healthy boundary like all devices are banned from the bathroom or bedroom. So then, if they are caught with their device in either place, you ban them for a week. This way, they will learn that it is safe to speak up about what is going on online without punishment unless they break the rules about device use.

8. Be a good role model. Keep your screen time in check and set a good example for your children. Teach them to review who they are following often and unfollow accounts that make them feel bad about themselves. Teach then to follow accounts that inspire them, health, happy and creative is always a good place to start.

9. Please help them to check and manage privacy settings. Set all of their accounts to private. This is something you can do together when they are younger by making it a shared experience.

10. Ensure they are not being moved from another social media site or game to another by someone they don’t know. This is a big one that I hear about far too often. Particularly for kids under 13yrs, but it may happen to older teens also. They make “friends” in games such as Roblox. Their new “friend” suggests that they connect on TikTok. Once they are both following each other, they can message each other for free. This includes sharing videos. This can become every parent’s worst nightmare in the blink of an eye.

11. Teach them to look for the verification symbol there is verification symbol on all social media sites proves it is the actual verified celebrity or group. On most, there will be a little blue circle with a white tick in it next to the name; on YouTube, it is a grey circle with a white tick, and on Snapchat, it is a yellow circle with a black star. No tick, no follow. Predators can set up fraudulent accounts with a small spelling mistake or a similar version of a celebrity name.

12. Encourage your kids to speak up. Kids need to understand that an adult can help when they know what is going on and will help them without the worry of being banned from their device or game for speaking up.

13. What are they looking at? You may never know what they see, and there is a lot of graphic content, porn, and other inappropriate content online just an accident click away. Ensure they know to get off the app immediately if they see something that makes them feel uncomfortable or worried.

14. Know how to take a screenshot. In case you need it as evidence. This is a great tool to teach kids as young as possible.

15. Teach them not to give away any personal information. Use a fake username like “popcorn fairy” or something. Teach your kids never to give away things like name, address, age, phone number, where they go to school, etc.

16. Watch out for what is in the background. It is easy for people to determine a location, take a screenshot, and zoom in on a certificate on the wall.

17. Turn off location tracking in your device settings, turn location tracking off for major social media apps completely.

18. Set time limits and be very clear about how long they can be online, or they can be watching all kinds of stuff for hours!

19. Teach them the importance of a strong password and not to use the same password for everything.

20. Strategise with your children. Most young people would first turn to their friends for help. We need to teach young people how to support their friends, and while they are young, they must understand that the best way to keep their friends is to speak up. By default, we are teaching them what to do to help themselves at the same time.

Ask them questions like these:

· What would you do if a friend came to you because they are cyber bullied?

· How would you address your friend who is sharing too much information online?

· What do you do if a friend shares an inappropriate photo of themselves? Then define inappropriate.

When you feed this information to a young person so they can support their friends, at the same time, you are teaching them that they can be a leader and someone their friends can count on. As long as they respond to any of those questions with “I would tell you,” you are winning.

However, with older teens, you must always advise when there is absolutely no other option other than to get a parent or a trusted adult involved when the issues are:

· Friends sharing inappropriate photos.

· Friends are going to meet someone they have met online.

· Someone is self-harming or talking about self-harm.

This way, you are giving young people a lot of authority and autonomy, but you are also defining healthy boundaries.

21. If bullying occurs:

· Make sure your child knows not to respond

· Take screenshots or screen record

· Block and report the bully to the app that is happened on

· Support your child

· If the bullying material is not removed within 48hrs report to esafety.gov.au/report or straight to your local police or Crime Stoppers crimestoppers.com.au

From safeonsocial.com

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Celebrating Advent

Advent starts this year on Sunday the 29th of November and is celebrated for the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, Advent season ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is frequently celebrated by people of every religious background, every faith, every spiritual path as part of the festivals of the cycle of the year.

In the Southern hemisphere, Christmas falls near the Summer Solstice when the light is at its strongest and we celebrate the triumph of light at its greatest point in the yearly cycle. As the year draws to an end we increasingly spend time outside enjoying “the sun in the heavens”. With the long warm days, intense light and balmy nights we are drawn out into the elements rather than into “the sun in our hearts”.

It can be challenging to develop a sense of inwardness, patience and contemplation when the Spirit of the Earth is on its outward breath. To balance this we can consciously choose to “receive the light” and celebrate what is both universally human and universally spiritual. Celebrating Advent can provide an opportunity for some quiet ‘breathing in’ during this outwardly busy time of year and help your children to practice preparation, reverence and patience through the ritual of counting the weeks and days to the special celebratory event. The lighting of candles each week also reflects our own ‘Divine Light’ and helps to bring us a little inward contemplation.

Traditionally Steiner schools and families celebrate Advent by looking each week at the natural kingdoms on Earth: minerals the first week, plants the second week, animals the third week and humans the fourth week (see verses below).

Here are some ideas that you might like to include in your own advent celebrations:

  

An Advent verse
‘The gift of the light we thankfully take, But not shall it be alone for our sake, The more we give light, the one to the other, It shines and it spreads, growing still further; Until every spark by friends set aflame, Until every heart, the joy to proclaim; In the depths of our souls, A shining sun glows.’

Advent Wreath  – on a special table made with greenery and seasonal flowers, four advent candles to light each consecutive Sunday of Advent.

Advent Garden – assembled and added to each Sunday of Advent with the four kingdoms celebrated each week try adding tiny crushed shells (collected from the beach) in a spiral pattern for the spiral on which Mary and Joseph figures walk.

Advent Crib – a nativity scene of the four kingdoms, adding a different one each of the Sundays- Crystal Kingdom, plant kingdom, animal and human kingdoms.

Advent calendars are available from Rudolf Steiner Bookstore by following this link

Verses for the 4 weeks of Advent

Week 1: Crystal Kingdom
The crystal kingdom comes first and is honoured by decorating the wreath or garden with crystals, seashells, stones or little bones you may find.

Week 2: Plant Kingdom
In the second week the plant kingdom is honoured by adding little dried flowers, seeds and pine cones and greenery.

                     

Week 3: Animal Kingdom
The animal kingdom, in the third week, is honoured by adding little wooden animals or beeswax creatures the children make.

Week 4: Humankind
The fourth week sees us honouring humankind by adding a little felted or beeswax child and figures.

      

Additional Reading:
Our library has some Advent handouts available.
Possible stories include The Star Money from the Brothers Grimm, (and if you have the book “Rose Windows”, there is a lovely idea for a window transparency in there); craft ideas in The Children’s Year and Families, Festivals and Food. Other stories include the ones from “The Light In the Lantern: Stories for Advent” from Wynstones Press; Advent Sunday Stories, Collette Leenman; Mary’s Little Donkey, Gunhild Sehlin; Advent and Christmas Stories, Estelle Bryer and Janni Nicol.