The holiday’s are upon us! It’s a time for giving and receiving, a time for coming together, for lighting candles, baking cookies, for cozying up with loved ones, and appreciating the joy the season can bring… I repeat, can bring. For some parents, there’s the equal promise of stress and over-spending. For kids, there’s the promise of presents, presents and more presents, not to mention the continual sugar ingestion that’s been happening since Halloween. Don’t let materialistic frenzy trump the season’s wonder. Here are a few tips for parents to help give kids a greater understanding about the true spirit of the holidays. (The list is a bit Christmas-centric but the concepts are universal.)
1. THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE
Tap into your kumbaya and talk with your kids about the goodness within the human heart. Encourage them to shine their light extra brightly during the holidays by being kind towards others and themselves. It’s as simple as sharing, saying please and thank you, expressing love with words, hugs or giving the dog a treat. Let your kids know when they’ve done it, “I just saw your light shine. Thank you!” Point out how when they do, others often shine theirs back. Knowing they have the ability to bring love and kindness into the world is empowering for children and boosts confidence.
2. DON’T SHUT DOWN THEIR WANTS If your kids are anything like mine, when they want something, they tell you… over and over and over again. It can be a little frustrating, especially if you’ve already blown your budget on what they said they wanted last week. Instead of shutting down their interests with a talk-to-the-hand response, ask them, “What it is that you like about that toy? Is it the color? The noise it makes? Is it fun to play make-believe with?” Be curious. Give them space to express what they’re excited about, but be careful not to make any promises. They might not get every single thing they ask for and yet they needn’t feel bad or wrong for wanting it.
3. SOMETHING YOU WANT. SOMETHING YOU NEED. SOMETHING YOU WEAR. SOMETHING YOU READ. That’s right. Four things. This could be difficult to implement for older kids who are used to getting tons of present but it’s a beautiful philosophy for gift giving that simplifies children’s expectations. Use this guideline to help your kids more thoughtfully consider what they’d like to receive.
4. HELP FROM AN ELF My son’s pre-school teacher gave me this great suggestion for encouraging good behavior leading up to the holidays. Get an elf doll or figurine and introduce it as Santa’s little helper. The elf will report back to the North Pole each night about how naughty or nice the kids were that day. Did they listen? Have they been friendly? Did they brush their teeth without a fight? Then after the kids go to bed, place the elf in a different spot in the house. In the morning, it’s the job of the kids to find the elf in the fruit bowl, poking out of a boot, or hiding behind a curtain. Knowing this funny friend is observing them is a playful approach for teaching self-awareness. If you don’t celebrate Christmas find another character that would excite your little ones, a troll or stuffed animal that reports back to the keeper-of-gifts.
5. SANTA CLAUSE, THE ONE-GIFT WONDER Santa’s got a hellava job. He needs to bring presents to millions of children all over the world but he’s only got one night and one sleigh. That means he only has one special gift for each child. I know. It sounds nuts, but kids can sympathize with Santa’s logistical dilemma. Don’t worry; it won’t detract from the magic of his arrival. It might even add to it. Plus, St. Nick won’t get the credit for all the hard work you’ve put in!
6. THE JOY OF GIFT GIVING I have fond memories of my mom taking my siblings and I to Kmart every December, each one of us clutching a sandwich bag filled with the contents of our piggy bank we had saved up all year. We were to spend the money on gifts for one another. I remember how giddy I was, trying to find that special (albeit cheap) something for my brother and sister. Most kids really enjoy giving, but they need a chance to do it. No need to spend money, either. Have them find something in nature, do a craft or bake cookies with the intent of gifting them. Let them in on the secret that giving is just as thrilling as receiving... if not more.
7. TEACH CHARITY BY DONATING OLD TOYS The reality is not all parents can afford to buy brand new presents. Some go to Salvation Army, Goodwill or other charitable organizations for their holiday shopping. Give your kids the opportunity to donate their old toys to a child who is less fortunate then they are. It’s not always easy to let go, so make sure you give your kids time to digest the concept. Talk about it for a few days. Let them consider what toy they’d like to give away before new toys arrive. When they’ve made their choice, make an outing of it and donate the item together. Be sure to thank them for shining their light, yet again. Happy Holidays!