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I grew up in the country, in a house without central heat and air. We had a furnace in the basement and every Saturday in the winter, my two siblings and I would load up in my dad’s Ford F150 and drive down to the woods behind our house. He would cut down a tree and use his chainsaw to make smaller logs so my siblings and I could load it into the bed of the truck. We called it “The Wood Trap” and often joked about how our dad would wake us up on Saturday mornings singing, “it’s time for the Wood Trap.” After the truck bed was full, we would drive back to the house, unload the wood and sip hot chocolate until we warmed up.

My dad would make trips throughout the day to add wood to the furnace. The Midwest winters were cold but we were always warm. The nighttime was tricky though. My dad chose wood that would last through the night so he wouldn’t have to wake up and add wood to the fire. I was just visiting my parents over winter break and my mom reminded me, “green wood holds.” My parents now have central heat and air but her knowledge of firewood has stuck with her. Green wood holds because it burns longer and can endure the night.

What things will we put in place this year that will “hold?” New habits, strategies, self-care, personal goals, etc. What preparation do we need to put in place to accomplish our goals? As parents, how can we prepare children to handle the “winters” of their lives. Are we helping them prepare or holding our breath hoping the winter will be mild?

One thing modern conveniences has allowed us is the privilege of not preparing. We are lucky enough to have central heat and air and trust that if our unit goes out, we can call our handyman and it will be fixed right away. In today’s climate of mental health, things are not so easy. Wait lists are long and we might not get help as soon as we think.

Building emotional emotional muscles is the green wood of mental health. It lasts. It takes kids through the winters of their lives, and allows them to handle whatever comes their way. The first step to building emotional muscles is to start teaching kids about emotions early. The second step is to teach them strategies to handle their emotions. No matter the winter, the strategies will hold.

As you think about this year and what you want for your kids, I encourage you to allow your children to go through difficult times. The “winters” of our lives are what make us strong. You don’t need to leave them alone during the winter but you can teach them strategies such as “Square Breathing,” “Change the Channel” and “Brain Plate” to help them get by. The winters are harsh and cold but when the Spring comes, we are grateful for all we have learned.

I am grateful for you all and for the lessons I have learned during the winters of my life. I wouldn’t be who I am without them and I know you wouldn’t be either.

To Building Emotional Muscles in 2023,

Allison

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