The holidays can be very busy and stressful times for you and your families. Often the focus becomes gifts and events, rather than special times with your families and loved ones. Unfortunately, children’s senses are filled with messages that scream “Buy me”! However, the memorable pieces of holiday celebrations have nothing to do with gifts or presents.
Children, during their formative years, make connections to what happened when they felt certain emotions, and these connections are stored in the long-term memory banks. One-on-one time with parents that created a bond, perfect timing of something that was needed, and seemingly small experiences that are often forgotten by parents were three of the common elements of the recollections provided by children as adults (www.cardinalpacelli.org).
Here are some real world examples:
- One of my most significant memory of the holidays was my aunt taking pictures with a very old camera. She had to view the image by looking down into the box and then turn the handle to take the picture. This required a lot of time, and we usually were staring into the sun, which meant we all were yelling for her to hurry up and laughing about how crazy she was for using a 100 year old camera.
- One of my husbands greatest holiday memories was playing the boardgame Risk and playing cards with all of his cousins on Christmas Eve. He has a large family, and playing games with his family that he had not seen in almost a year was always something to which he looked forward.
- My brother-in-law shared stories of his last family camping trip over Christmas break. He said everything that could have gone wrong did, including torrential rain, leaky tents, long hikes to the bathrooms in wet mud, a broken down truck and other awful experiences. However, they also talked about how they will never forget that trip, and how they worked together as a team and learned how to get through rough times together. They now laugh when they tell the story.
In an effort to slow down and enjoy Christmas with your families, there are simple techniques that you can use. Here are a few for you to consider:
- During the holidays, choose a night that can be designated “Family Night”. Watch a movie, read stories, order pizza, whatever suits your families needs.
- Do not commit to activities that pull you and your children in different directions. Plan activities that include all members of the family.
- Visit a nursing home or hospital, elderly neighbor or relative, local shelter, etc. to spread holiday cheer.
- Volunteer as a family to partner with a community organization that provides for under-privileged families.
- Keep your house as calm and soothing as possible. Eliminate clutter and noise by working together to get the gifts wrapped and turning off the TV and videogames.
- Continue with family traditions that are part of your history. If you do not know of any, ask an older relative to share memories of their holidays and see what you can find out.
- Start a new family tradition of baking cookies, making homemade greeting cards, singing carols together, lighting candles at dinner or bedtime, start a family scrap book or diary, etc. Be creative!
- Try to avoid taking young children shopping, as they cannot understand the concept of selflessness. Cut down on their exposure to commercials that encourage lots of spending.
- Use the rule of thumb “Spend half as much money as usual and spend twice the amount of time with your family as usual”.
- Focus on activities that bring your family closer together and acknowledge the needs of others. (www.illinoisearlylearnin.org)
These are just a few tips, and you can come up with many others. Allow your children to be involved in the process of holiday planning as well. They often see things from a more innocent perspective and can create wonderful traditions to add to yours.
Most of all… enjoy the season and the time together. That is the most significant way to create memorable holiday celebrations!