Avoiding Holiday Stress: Part III

dec10_button1Holidays can be expensive, and most of us have to be cautious about what we spend. I know I’m not the only person out there who is bothered by the commercialism of Christmas. My goodness, the Christmas “season” is in stores before Halloween and “Black Friday” has become “Black Week” followed by “Cyber Monday”, which is now followed by “Green Monday”.  Yes indeed, corporate America is encouraging us to spend, spend, spend. Our children are watching endless toy commercials on TV, the radio, and social media.  Greed is running rampant; how many times have you been in a store and witnessed a child crying and having a melt down because, “I want…”. You can fill in the blank.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to cut corners financially while keeping the true meaning of the Holidays front and center for my family. In my mind, the truth behind Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa is all the same: Faith ~ Family ~ Friends ~ Fun. When my children become adults, I want them to look back on their childhood Christmases and remember these core values

I spend time each year thinking about how to balance giving and getting. My belief is that when children “get”, they learn entitlement; when children “give”, they learn generosity. One of the lessons I’ve learned as I’ve matured is that the greatest, most precious gifts come to us when we GIVE. The story of Christ begins with an act of  giving; we are taught that God gave us the gift of his Son. Soon after His birth, the Wise Men came bearing gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Indeed, the joy of giving is a life lesson that we can begin teaching even our youngest children.

So many of us are busy working moms and dads. As a result, one of the most precious things we can give is our TIME.  Time spent together is what creates the memories we carry with us for a lifetime.  I promise that twenty years from now, your children will not look back on the 2017 holiday season and remember that the tree skirt matched the color theme of the room perfectly. And even though they have begged for it endlessly since October, they probably won’t remember that they got that Star Wars toy either.

They will remember that they had fun spending time in the kitchen baking cookies, snuggled on the couch reading with you, making homemade cards, secretly delivering batches of cookies to the neighbors or caroling at a nursing home.  Take a moment and think back on your own memories.  What stands out? See, I’m right…you remember TIME too, don’t you?  Anyway, I have decided to focus on giving and I’m doing that by spending TIME on the traditions that don’t cost a lot.  Here are some suggestions:

~ spend a quiet afternoon baking and decorating Christmas cookies with your child/ren.  Even your youngest toddlers can help in small ways.

~ make some homemade gift wrap; again, let kids use markers, crayons, colored pencils, or even paint and potato stamps to decorate plain paper.  Will you have the most elegant tree on the block?  Probably not, but your child/ren will have a wonderful memory to store away.  Remember, Beautiful House magazine is not coming to take pictures at your house.

~ ask your child/ren to spend an afternoon going through the toys and outgrown clothes.  You may find things to donate to a woman’s shelter, a foster program, or a church that supports needy families.  Focus on the joy that comes from giving.

~ get together with friends and neighbors.  Plan an evening of Christmas caroling.  Take the carolers to a nursing home, the local hospital, or just around the neighborhood.

~ remember, it is okay to tell your child/ren that something is too expensive.  Even Santa is feeling the recession and learning about the value of things is actually a GOOD THING!  Managing finances responsibly is an important life lesson we must teach our children.

~ if you live where it snows, build a snowman; if you live at the beach, build a snowman out of sand!

~ visit the local library to check out some Christmas books; bedtime stories are such a positive bonding activity for you and your child/ren.

~ let your child/ren decorate some pretty stationary and then write a thank you letter to a soldier or first responder.

~ make homemade ornaments to decorate the tree, string popcorn, cranberries, make paper chains.  All of these are fun and keep little hands busy.

~ make homemade Christmas cards for grandparents; they will treasure them!

~ snuggle up with the book or movie, The Polar Express.  When you finish the story,  go to the kitchen for some hot chocolate and have a jingle bell waiting there with a pretty red bow.

~ cut paper snowflakes to decorate the home, porch, windows.

~ watch a favorite holiday film as a family.  We love Elf. Which is your favorite?

~ plan snacks for Santa, the elves, and the reindeer.  What will they eat? Where should the snacks be placed?

~ make photo props for the family to use in pictures this holiday season. Use words like JOY, FAMILY, HO HO HO, MERRY…

~ pile the whole family into the car and drive around the neighborhood enjoying all the festive Christmas lights.

You get the idea…Each of these ideas means TIME spent with your child.  TIME is one of the most precious gifts of all.  Trust me, childhood goes by so quickly.  You and your child will treasure these memories of simple fun.

These are just a few ideas.  I know you will have some of your own. I’d love for you to send along a comment letting me know some traditions you and your family share.  MERRY CHRISTMAS! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Author: Jennifer C. Walts, Ed.D.

I am a retired educator and School Improvement Specialist.

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