(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 4 of The Five Love Languages for Children by Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell, M.D. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. We encourage you to read each chapter entirely and post what you've learned from the study as well. We'd love to hear from you!)
What if this Christmas instead of rushing through the stores looking for the perfect gifts, jumping from one Christmas party with the kids to the next, traveling all over town to see all of the extravagant lights, taking over 100 pictures of your kids in front of the tree to get that one perfect picture to go on your Christmas cards (which you then have to address and stamp), moving that crazy elf from one place to the next, baking every single cookie you can possibly think of (it's stresses me out just thinking about it)….what if instead, we focus on what Christmas time is all about….Jesus. Think about what you want your children to learn about Jesus. Now, think about the craziness that we sometime stir up around us during Christmas time. Are we teaching them about the life of Jesus and how we should be living today? Or is the only thing they are seeing around us chaos?
This brings me to our next love language…quality time. Jesus' time on earth is a perfect example of the love language of quality time. He gave His undivided attention to everyone around Him.
What if...all your children really need is you?
I know we are all trying to create memories for our children. Memories that they will look back on and think of how wonderful their childhood was. (They will do that, right?) For our children with autism, we try to make it as magical as possible for them. We go that extra mile and search things on ebay to find that toy they just don't make any more. We search recipe after recipe trying to find the perfect gluten free cookie recipe that looks and tastes yummy. If you are anything like me by the time I finally get everything prepared for the big cookie bake, my patience is thin. There's a mess in my kitchen, my kids are fighting, the dog is barking and I'm done. Think about those last few shopping days of Christmas...we take the kids with us as we travel from store to store to store, still searching for that perfect gift that we think our children need. I spend a ton of time preparing to make Christmas morning so magical for the kids so we can all enjoy it together and what we usually end up getting is an exhausted mommy, a financially stressed out dad, one boy who is so overwhelmed sensory-wise from all of the sudden changes that we hear lines from Toy Story all day and another who is completely overwhelmed with all of the presents and things we had to get done before Christmas. Where, in these moments, am I showing my children Jesus? How am I teaching them what they need to know about Christmas time?
One of the best things I can do to really impact them the most is really spend some true quality time with them. Sure we can do some of the fun traditional activities that make Christmas special to kids like baking cookies, seeing the lights and Nativity scenes and singing Christmas carols. However, I do believe that to truly make these moments as magical and memorable as possible for our children, we need to give them our undivided attention, which this time of year is extremely hard to do.
The following points really impacted me the most from Chapter 4:
* When a child's love tank is empty and attention is the only thing that will fill it, that child will go to almost any length to get what she needs. (p. 60)
* ….while more people are talking about quality time, most children are starving for it. Even children whose parents truly love them walk around with empty emotional tanks, and few seem to know what to do about this. (p. 60)
* Quality time is focused attention. It means giving a child your undivided attention. (p. 60)
* When you spend quality time with children, you need to go to their physical/emotional development. (p. 61)
* The most important factor in quality time is not the event itself but that you are doing something together, being together. (p. 61)
So this Christmas, instead of trying to create these perfect memories of what we think Christmas should be like, let's just play and spend that special time with our children…autism or no autism, our children need to spend that time with us where they have our undivided attention. That means, no texting, no emails, no crossing off our to-do list in our heads. Just be with them on their level. Take the time to really teach them about the life of Jesus Christ and how important that special day that Jesus was born truly is to us all. I know for a lot of our children on the spectrum, it may seem like they aren't listening, but they are. They are listening and watching. Obviously, things still need to get done. Make a schedule (what child with autism doesn't like a schedule?). On your schedule, make special time with your kids where no matter what's going on or what you are in the middle of doing, when the schedule says it's time to play, you drop everything, get on their level and be with them. (Set a timer if you need to so you remember!) By doing this, you will speak this love language of quality time loud and clear. In the meantime, you'll be creating some memories that will help make this Christmas very special to everyone, including yourself.
1 John 4:7,8
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.