The holidays might be the most magical time of year, but they can also be incredibly stressful – for kids and adults alike. Add in a global pandemic, and it can be easy to lose sight of the magic – and the meaning – behind the season. This year, consider adding one (or five!) new traditions to your holiday to help shake some stress, embrace the change, and focus on giving goodness. Remember, whether this year’s celebration is big or small, it’s the holiday spirit that makes it memorable. #DreamBigStartSmall
- Become a Holiday Helper
For many kiddos, the excitement of the holiday revolves around receiving gifts – but this year, when many are struggling, it’s the perfect time to introduce them to the joy of giving. Whether it’s a friend or neighbor, or a struggling family in the community, help your child devise a plan to secretly deliver a gift or act of kindness. Remember, the key here is being stealth. From shoveling a neighbor’s driveway while they’re out, to baking a friend’s favorite cookies and leaving them on the doorstep – the joy of this family activity is giving without the expectation of anything in return.
For many kids, the excitement of secretly delivering a gift or act of service is so rewarding that they begin to get as excited about giving gifts as they are about receiving them. Try it once and we promise you’ll want to make it an annual tradition.
- Make a Family Meal
Whether your family will be physically together this year or not, making a holiday meal together is a great way to teach kids that giving and receiving doesn’t have to be all about gifts. Giving the gift of your time, attention and connection is often even more valuable than any physical item – this year in particular!
If your family is physically together, assign each family member one (age-appropriate) dish to prepare for the meal – or let each person choose something they love to make. If your family is going to be apart, have each person send around their favorite recipe and then virtually teach others to make it over Zoom. As you enjoy your meal, make sure to thank each person for their creativity and expertise, and let them feel how rewarding it is to be recognized for their contribution.
Learning how to adapt and find connection, even when we’re physically apart, is an important skill that 2020 has forced many of us to work on – consider carrying that skill forward into 2021 by making virtual family meals a monthly or quarterly occurrence!
- Pick the Perfect Gift
For many parents, holiday shopping is a stressful task that involves hours of scouring stores and websites for deals that match up with increasingly long lists of wants and needs. This year let the kiddos help! Instead of buying, wrapping, and delivering gifts “from” your kids – engage them in the process by selecting a couple of relatives that they can buy for themselves. Give them a gift card or a price limit and then let them do their own searching or brainstorming to come up with the perfect present.
Engaging kids in the gifting process makes them so much more invested in the act of giving. When they’ve picked out the gift themselves, it becomes much more exciting to watch someone open it and can be especially helpful for little ones who struggle to wait their turn when it comes to unwrapping.
- Give the Gift of Gratitude
We often think about gratitude as an internal practice – but it can also be a gift to others. A great holiday tradition that helps kids (and adults!) learn to flex their gratitude muscle is giving nightly “gifts of gratitude” to family members. For one week (or longer if you can!), make a dinnertime tradition of gifting each family member something you love about them. Everyone gets a turn to go around the table and tell each family member something they love or are grateful for about that person. For example: “I love that you’re such a good listener,” or “I’m grateful that you play soccer with me in the yard.”
This fun tradition encourages kids to think about what they are thankful for and allows them to see the impact that their gratitude has on other people. It’s also a great way to practice receiving compliments (this can be hard!) and to remind ourselves that we really do love each other, even during what can be a stressful season.
- Make Your Own Thank You Notes
While for some families thank you notes are something of an outdated tradition, in a year where many of us can’t physically be together, they are a great way to maintain connection and share gratitude for everything we DO have. Writing thank you notes is an especially beneficial activity for kids in that it helps them practice penmanship, gratitude, AND connection with others.
For littler kids who are just learning to write (or older kids experiencing thank you note fatigue), consider buying blank cards and having them paint or color them instead. Another great thank you note alternative is taking photos with each gift and signing the back. If and when kids get tired of writing notes, let them take a break, but remind them that this is just another reminder of how fortunate they truly are.
For many busy families, the holidays fly by. This year in particular is a good one to slow down and focus on the true meaning of the season. There are so many opportunities for kids (and adults!) to practice giving and receiving and recognizing that holiday magic is made up of so much more than just physical gifts.
Does your family have a favorite holiday tradition? How do you practice giving, receiving, and gratitude during the holiday season?