For parents, the holiday season can be an elusive and tricky balance. Certainly, we want to give our children a fun, meaningful, and memorable holiday experience. Although we may try to "keep things simple," there is no side-stepping the fact that the holidays require time and energy to plan and execute. This in turn can leave us frazzled, exhausted (and too-often crabby).
Granted, we know it is more important (for their enjoyment and well-being) to maintain a warm, peaceful, and joyful connection with our children. Yet, this is often easier said than done, when our to-do list is a mile long. I know how easy it is to get sidetracked with holiday tasks (gift shopping, card sending, cookie baking, house decorating, party planning)...we forget that all they really want AND need, is for us to slow down and spend simple time with them. So, I am going to remember to do some of the following...
- Cuddle up on the couch WITH THEM and watch Frosty for the 100th time.
- Make hot chocolate and sit down WITH THEM to enjoy.
- Give them that little holiday craft kit and do it WITH THEM.
- Make cookies WITH THEM.
- Jump in their beds and read Christmas books WITH THEM...
You get the idea. It seems obvious and easy. Yet, sometimes we need a daily reminder (at least I do!)
The following is a great article and reminder of some practical ways to achieve this balance. Enjoy!
By Dr. Laura Markham
Worried that your child seems to get a bit greedy at the holidays? Consider that maybe something deeper is being triggered -- a longing for that happy, perfect, life when he'll feel completely enveloped by your love. We adults have the same fantasy, of course. It's part of the wonder of the holidays -- that promise of transformative love. The human mind has a tendency to crave more, more, more. Kids (like many adults) haven't yet learned how to manage those yearnings and direct them toward what will really fulfill them, which is connection, creativity, gratitude and meaning.
Unfortunately, research shows that having lots of material possessions usually makes us value them less. When we aren't as grateful, we aren't as happy. So material plenty, absent gratitude, usually makes us more unhappy. But it is possible to fill our children’s deep longings. Not with excessive presents – which always leave kids feeling unfulfilled -- but with the deeper meaning of the holidays and the magic of love. How?
1. Explain to your child that your December holiday is about “presence” or time together, not about “presents” -- and then keep your promise! When he asks you to do something with him, why not leave the dishes in the sink or your email unanswered for now? Sure you were going to make that homemade present or wreath, but if you can't do it with your child, who cares? (If you do it with your child, it won't look perfect, but you'll treasure it forever. As will she.)
2. Manage Expectations. Ask your child to carefully consider his desires and tell you four gift ideas:
• A store-bought gift that is within your means (this may take some back and forth discussion).
• A book he wants to read.
• A "together" present that you will do with him, like going to the zoo.
• A "giving" present that he can gift to someone else, like making cookies for the senior citizen home or stuffing stockings for kids in a shelter.
3. Fill your child's heart by celebrating the love in your family. Every day, do one thing to bring your family together, even if it's just enjoying the twinkling holiday lights together in the dark. Go around the dinner table and share appreciations. Make a paper chain together, writing an appreciation on each link: Dad makes the best pancakes, Michael let me use his truck, Grandma has a beautiful laugh. Or write love notes of appreciation to each other, either anonymous or signed, and hide them around the house where they'll be found. However you do it, let your child experience how giving love creates more love.
4. Model your values by prioritizing family activities that savor the deliciousness of your holiday. Minimize the focus on shopping and busy-ness. Instead, have dinner discussions about your holiday and what it means to you. Read and talk about books on holiday themes. Open holiday cards together at dinner and discuss what you love about the sender. Find acts of kindness that your children can engage in, because when we act kindly toward others, it makes us happy inside. Think of each holiday activity -- gift wrapping, baking, decorating -- as a chance to connect and create a little more love in the world.
5. Give your child the experience of abundance in simple ways. You can let your kids revel in that feeling of abundance while still sticking with your values and your budget. If you’re gifting him with a trip to the zoo, print out a photo of his favorite zoo animal and a simple certificate, and wrap it, complete with ribbon. If she loves chap stick, buy four flavors and wrap each one separately. If you baked and decorated cookies together to take to all the older folks when you visited Aunt Sue, be sure to take photos. Then print out a Commendation for Generosity with his name on it, along with a photo of a happy cookie-eater and your child, and wrap it with a ribbon and a cookie in a baggie. That will probably bring as big a smile to his face as a toy, especially when you regale everyone present with a story about how happy he made the senior citizens.
6. Give your child the gift of playful responses to things that you’d normally get irritated about. When she resists your instructions, be mock horrified. Scoop her up and throw her around, making a rambunctious game of it. Interpret every "misbehavior" as a request for loving connection. (If you need to "teach" appropriate behavior, do it AFTER you connect.) This is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. You’ll be so pleased by how much more cooperative she is that you might adopt this approach permanently.
7. Minimize stress and fill your own cup so you're in a good mood, living the spirit of the season and spreading love and good cheer. Pare back on your expectations and let go of the comparisons. Your kids don't want a magazine-spread holiday. They want your love and appreciation and joy. Prioritize getting sleep and taking care of yourself so you can give your child your best--not just what's left.
No matter what they think, kids don't need the latest toy from Toys R Us or the latest electronic gadget. Those are just strategies to feel good inside themselves. And the only way that feeling lasts is when it comes from love.
Consider the memories your kids are shaping this December. When they look back, will they describe a parent who communicated the spirit of the season with laughter, warm embraces, gracious patience?
You ARE that parent, inside.
What could you let go of, so that you can express all that love and joy?
What's the best present you can give your child? Peaceful Parenting!