Hot Chocolate and Shared Stories
Even though my father had to travel plenty due to his job, he was always present in my life. I remember many nights where he shared stories of his travels with me and my five sisters by the light of a candle. In those days it was common for a household in the Dominican Republic to lose electricity at night. During these dark nights my mother made ginger tea and corn bread while we shared stories late into the night. My dad’s stories instilled a vision and enthusiasm for life that is permanently imprinted in my heart. My father, with my mother at his side, would use his experiences to speak to us about the future and how to navigate through life’s victories and defeats.
This is why I am suggesting that you incorporate the magic of hot chocolate and reading together as a family into your fall and winter traditions. These cozy weekend nights will not only create positive memories that your children will cherish, but they will also make your loved ones feel connected. Studies have shown that family togetherness has many advantages. In families where family warmth exists, you will find improved communication between children and their parents, children with higher self-esteem, better grades, and improved behavior in the home and at school.
Family togetherness is important for strengthening the family and the spirit of our children. In the absence of a good support system, stress and conflict can lead to broken family relationships.
The brain remains flexible throughout our lives, but is most flexible in childhood. In his book Emotional Intelligence, Dr. Daniel Goleman shares that the emotional management habits that are repeated over and over again during the childhood and teenage years mold the mental circuitry that is present in adulthood. This makes childhood a crucial window of opportunity for shaping lifelong emotional propensities. “Habits acquired in childhood,” Goleman argues, “become set in the basic synaptic writing of neural architecture, and are harder to change later in life”. This is why childhood is such a crucial time to mold the emotional inclinations which will influence us for the rest of our lives.
When my father passed away on September 3, 2013, he left a legacy of faith, strong conviction, relationship smarts, and a strong sense of community.
If you wish to support your children and leave them a strong legacy, especially during a time when mental health is a struggle for teenagers, there is no better way than family warmth. During this cold season, instead of scattering throughout the house, gather together with warm mugs of hot chocolate and share stories –either ones from your life or ones that you read out loud from a book. Pass down your faith, courage, and vision for the future.