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6 Ways to Give to a Special Someone This Christmas

by Rebecca Shafir, M.A.CCC Personal Development and Executive Functioning coach at the Hallowell Center MetroWest

I received many thumbs up from the last newsletter about my Uncle Charlie and folks like him. One reader was particularly articulate: “How can my children interact with their older relatives with a  memory problem? I want my kids to know that the world is not all about them, that there is much to be learned from older people, and that all relatives are to be valued, not ignored. My kids ask, ‘What’s the point? Why bother talking to Grandpa? He won’t remember anyway.’ What do I say to them?”

Now there’s good parenting! Please explain to your kids that, even although the content or the memory of the conversation may be lost, this older person will feel really good. It’s the warm hug, the sensation of someone sitting shoulder to shoulder, the eye contact, the lively chatter or experiencing something out of the ordinary that makes someone feel good. These folks won’t quite know why they are smiling more, feeling brighter and a little more energetic after the interaction. They may not be able to thank the person who made them feel this way, but their heart, soul and general physiology will get a kick up. I have no hard evidence to support this,  unless we could put a person in a PET Scan before and after a positive 15-30 minute interaction and compare the levels of brain activation. I’d wager, based on what I have observed, that the differences would be startlingly significant and possibly endure for hours.

The activities I suggest need to include some talk, close physical interaction and a strong visual component to keep them engaged. Here are some activities or conversation starters your kids can try:

  1. Bring out an old photo album and go through it with them. Fill in the details from your memory to enhance the experience.
  2. Bring out a checker board or another board game and play. Point out their good moves, or just let them win already. If they have trouble with the game, get a 2nd person in on the act to prompt them.
  3. Share some magazines on a topic of their interest − fashion magazines, or a Sports Illustrated or a National Geographic where the pictures are dramatic.
  4. Teach them how to play a simple video game where they man the controls. Keep it simple and fun.
  5. Let them tell you stories of the war, or when they were kids. Forget yourself and get into their movie, try to see and feel the experience as they describe it.
  6. Download a video of a Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or some famous singer from their youth in concert and sing along. Karaoke works great even if they can’t read the lyrics! Put a microphone in their hand and watch them become a superstar!

Have a back up activity in case the one you chose doesn’t pan out. Either way, your effort is one of kindness and affection. Better than a present or money, the gift of your time, gratitude and attention is what Christmas or any family gathering is all about.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New year to you all!

Rebecca Shafir



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