By Rachel Hofstetter
It’s Christmas time again! We can feel it, smell it, see it, and hear it. The trees are up and the music is on. We can see the anticipation and excitement in our kids as we get closer to Christmas Day. Tradition and fun. Family and friends. Good food and warm glowing nights. The possibility of the impossible is in every movie and story of Christmas. Our kids sense of belief is at its highest. How can our kids not revel in the joy and excitement of good things to come this time of year?
So how do we capture it? How can we deposit lifelong memories into our families during Christmas break? And how can we help our children see this time as more than gifts and more about giving?
I have made the mistake so many times, while preparing Christmas experiences for my kids, of going overboard.
I want my kids to have every possible experience and so I plan out every moment. Movie nights, play time, gifts, food, activities. All of them are holiday related and all of them are planned. Basically, I spoil the socks off of them.
But here’s what happens: as Christmas break goes on I can see that my kids start to fight more. They get cranky and picky about everything. I start to see their self-absorption gain strength and I begin to think to myself, “They have been given so much and they are still unhappy. Why do I even bother?”
If I stop a minute and think about it, the problem is really with me, their mom. I have, by wanting them to have the magic of this time of year, taken something away from them. I have shown them that it is all about them and that they don't actually have a part to play in what makes this time special. I haven't shown them how to look out for others. It’s easy to do and often it’s done before I realize it’s happening.
Let’s do our Christmas break differently
Lets teach ourselves and our kids how to look up and out at the world around us and be a part of the magic of Christmas. Here’s a few things I’m going to try:
I am going to try sitting down with my kids and plan out an activity of practicing generosity.
I’ll hear their hearts and help them identify something that they see as a need around them. I’ll help them find a place to give, even if it’s very small. To them it may be the greatest thing they do this year. I want to show them that generosity is a sacrifice of what we have; not the extra we can live without.
We are going to have family time that isn’t plugged into anything but each other.
Game time is a great way to accomplish this. Each one of us gets to choose a game and we all have to engage...even if we aren't that excited about playing their choice. Prepare our kids to give emotionally to each experience...to engage in each person’s choice in an activity.
The last thing I’m going to attempt is to pass the “event planner” role to my kids.
Instead of being the official keeper of all things active and memorable, I want to give my kids a small event to plan, even if it’s just for our family. They get to make a plan, organize an activity, prepare for it, and then implement it. Then they can help clean up when it’s over. This shows them the work and energy it takes to do nice things for others. My children seldom see or appreciate the hard work I put into something. So giving them the chance to create an experience for others will also help them appreciate when something is done for them.
I love this time of year because I love my family and want everyone around me to have joy and peace. I think that can happen, and it takes work. But it also takes a lot of thought, and even more slowing down.
I hope that with these changes it will teach my children how to keep generosity alive, love evident, and Christmas sacred.