The hustle and bustle of the holidays are here. For many of us the frenzy has begun- decorating, shopping, wrapping, holiday parties, school parties, baking, and overly excited children. It can make for a stressful time of year. I love the holidays and everything that comes with it- the Christmas music, decorations, holiday treats, family time, and special memories.
I have found that sometimes as parents we get so wrapped up in checking off our to-do list during this time of year and making sure we get every last gift our child begged for, that we forget what this time of year is all about. We forget that it is a special time of year that allows us to make lasting memories with our children through holiday traditions, whether old or new.
The other day I asked my oldest son who is 7 what he likes most about this time of year. I knew he would say the presents, which he did, but I asked him to tell me the other things he liked. He told me he liked decorating the tree, reading Christmas stories, baking cookies and hearing Christmas music. It was then that I realized the special things we do with our family each year, either for Christmas or Hanukkah will be remembered by our children for years to come.
This time of year is also a time to make sure the excitement of getting gifts does not reinforce a message of "me, me, me" with our kids. In order to combat the ulgier side of the holidays we do a few things in our house to reinforce the message of giving during the holiday season. You may find these helpful:
1. Give each child a short list of family members to either make something for or buy something small for. (Often local churches have a kids sale and kids can go buy small items for a dollar or two) or let them go shopping with you and pick out small items for people on their list. Explain to them, you may have to put something back if it is out of the price range. This reinforces the message it is about giving. We also bake cookies for friends and family. (explain giving does not have to cost money)
2. We buy clothing, food and gifts for families in need and deliver them. I have my kids help select the items and wrap the items. We talk about the many people in need of food, clothing and items and how we can help.
3.We take turns opening gifts on Christmas. Each family member opens 1 gift and then waits until it is his or her turn again. This allows everyone to see what the rest of the family received, it slows down the present frenzy, gets kids more excited about each gift, not just the biggest one, and teaches patience and respect.
4. The night before Christmas each person is allowed to open one small gift, we choose for them to open. it is a nice tradition and again reinforces patience and appreciation for everything we get even pajamas!
5. If you are Christian and celebrate Christmas, a great idea I have heard is that each person gets 3 gifts (can still do stocking stuffers, a family gift, etc...) for the number of gifts baby Jesus is given by the three wisemen. But this helps focus on a realistic number and keeps parents from going overboard.
5. Another great idea is to give the gift of charity to someone you love. Doante to Heifer.org, ChildFund.org, or WorldVision.org in the gift receiver's name and get a card and booklet to share with them about the gift you have given to someone in need.
I hope you have a Happy Holiday and find moments to spend quality time with your family, make lasting memories, and teach a few things along the way!