If Chanukkah has eight days, and Christmas has twelve, then it is surely not too late to give our kids a great gift: The gift of self-esteem, purpose in living, uplift, knowing their resources, and more.
I consulted an expert about a young family member's depression and stress which goes hand-in-glove with stepping out on one's own for the first time, bearing financial responsibility during a time when rents are out the roof and the economy is down. What a stress, eh?
"Kids may have very limited ideas of what their resources are. Broaden their horizons, show them fun, and let them know what is at their fingertips" this expert wrote to me. It sounded to me like very good advice.
So I put together a colorful binder which I printed out on my computer, with dividers into various categories, such as:
~Self-esteem: I quoted various friends, neighbors and a few casual acquaintances (to stress how wonderfully this young person affects others) in nice things they had said about him/her. Each quote was in a different color, to catch the eye and look attractive. It was so fun to do!
~Free entertainment (kids don't have much money when first leaving home, right?) I researched on the Internet for free events in our area and couldn't believe how much I came up with. Almost two pages of free concerts and free concert series, the Amateur Astronomer's Club which has free stargazing parties open to the public, bird watching, and of course hiking and biking, etc. I popped a map of the heavens into the binder and reminded this person that the empty hill next to the apartment complex where s/he lives would be a good place to stargaze, with friends. And of course, in many cities there are grants allowing museums to be free once a month. I can also tell you that everywhere and anywhere, ushers are needed for concerts, plays, etc with the benefit of free entry to the performance. Some ushers who show up regularly even end up with a paid job. All you have to do is to call the Administration of the entity hosting the event, ask for the head usher, sign up for a particular date, show up dressed as required by the head usher (usually black/white with shoes not sandals) and then you hand out programs, help people to their seats and get a free show. Some organizations even allow kids to hand out programs, so long as parents are there with them. Public service, free event, bingo! In fact, the more events you usher, the more you will be liked for it. Win-win!
~The best things in life are free such as: Hugs, kisses, moonlight walks, singing, poetry readings at home with friends (potluck), dancing to the stereo, candlelit dinners with one's significant other, etc. (surprise: These kids hadn't even thought of the latter! It's amazing what one forgets when stressed. It's important to remind them, even of the smallest thing!) I also suggested potlucks as a way to entertain and still not stretch the budget. In fact, there might even be left-overs to chomp on. (Since kids can't afford to entertain, we might as well work with the reality, eh? After they have their finances together it's of course a different matter).
~Health info: Diet, how to destress and decompress (exercise, supplements, good food, free or sliding-scale health clinics, call a friend every day, etc)
~A recipe section, with favorite recipes from our family (assuring that they eat healthfully, or at least to provide them the means if they so choose. We also offered to teach this youngster how to cook favored meals, on a weekly basis, with left-overs to be shared among us and and the rest dished out for the youngster's freezer. That way we get the joy of their fun and much-loved company while they also get a healthy meal once a week, plus left-overs for use at their own leisure.
~Great quotes and attitudes passed on by family members, tucked into the book on every page
~Fill-in-the-blanks lists for the young person to fill out: Gratitude list, how we can understand and give ourselves love, self-acceptance, turning negatives around to positives (in Chinese the character used to spell "Crisis" is the same as the character used for "opportunity"), more
~A section with funny chuckles and pearls of wisdom, interlaced. I just love the wisdom imparted in the most funny way in Swami Beyondanda's Guide to Enlightenment, which I tucked into the binder: www.geocities.com/~spiritwalk/guidetoenlightenment.htm
It was so exciting to see how this young family member and a friend poured over the binder. It did just what I had hoped for: Provided uplift, hope, esteem bolstering. And it was one of the most fulfilling projects I had ever done. To the young family member, although a stocking stuffer, it was the best Christmas present of all of them. The young family member also commented how helpful it was to have resources all together, on one or two pages, in lists.
I think we are kidding ourselves if we say to kids "Just say no to drugs". I think creativity abhors a vacuum, and needs to be filled in healthy ways. If we give our kids ideas of what to do in order to have healthy and fulfilling fun, which uplifts the soul and leaves a permanent fingerprint instead of the temporary high afforded by drugs, then we are on the right track. Then, and only then, does it even become possible to "just say no" to drugs.