During this holiday season, are you focusing more on relationships or things?
To be honest, our early family Christmases were out of balance. My children opened an abundance of presents – and a week later, those things meant little. But I learned a valuable lesson. Family is everything!
Ever since, I have spread the cheer more evenly throughout December – and even into January before returning to school.
With a de-emphasis on material gain, the gift of human connection flourished. Family became everything to my children.
More joy for them. Less disappointment and frustration for me.
That fundamental shift continues to work wonders at my home for one simple reason. Lots of “stuff” is never enough for most kids, especially those from hard places. In fact, it often does the opposite than intended – with no meaningful connection.
Last weekend I asked my three youngest sons to update their list of holiday favorites. All make them feel safe. All make them feel loved. All make them feel valued. And all involve minimal or no cost.
Perhaps, just perhaps, this is the year to create or update family traditions.
On the first day of connection, pull out all the handmade school ornaments from years gone by and let the memories flow. Then decorate, no tree necessary. What a great way to create a family timeline that includes and respects everyone’s past.
Make a holiday music playlist with a little something for everyone – from religious to playful with a variety of genres. It’s also a great way to show racial, ethnic, cultural and religious diversity. Yes, Alvin and Chipmunks can be new again. At the end of day, don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself and sing along.
Light an evening candle at dinner. Take turns night after night. Maybe even discuss the Jewish tradition of Hanukkah and the deep meaning of the light. Faith and hope will abound.
Plan a holiday menu that includes everyone’s favorite dishes. And help each other cook them. Don’t forget to prepare hot chocolate the old-fashioned way on the stove. Nothing better or richer.
Make snowballs from old newspapers and let the fun begin. For an added twist, apply double-stick tape and take aim. No gold rings necessary.
Watch a holiday movie. The Trouble with Angels with Hayley Mills is our family favorite. Several of my sons know many of the lines and laugh every time. An infectious belly laugh that reinforces the amazing gift of humor.
You can also rent DVDs from the local public library and enjoy Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza episodes of your favorite television shows. There are so many sentimental and reflective ones from which to choose. Best of all, most emphasize relationships over things.
Sit by a fireplace or fire pit. Enjoy the warmth – and an even warmer conversation between parent and child.
Find scenic locations in your community and take a bunch of family selfies. Create a collage of your favorites and, if desired, post them on social media for family and friends to see.
Read a variety of Christmas stories. Books of all levels are readily available at the public library. And take turns reading them – especially for children needing a confidence booster. You can also write your own. The adventuresome may even act the parts.
Work together on a service project that reflects your family’s values. Grab a trash bag and clean a park. Help an elderly neighbor. Bake cookies for family friends. Visit a retirement community and play board games. The possibilities are endless without making anyone feel uncomfortable.
Pen letters of appreciation to teachers or other professionals. They’ll appreciate the sincerity much more than the over-priced bottle of bubble bath. You might even be surprised by what your kids write.
Prepare “coupons” for one another. How can each family member give a gift from within and do something special for or with another? My kids are routinely more generous with their time than I ever expected.
Most importantly, be mindful. The goal is connection. By giving from the heart and not the pocketbook, you will create memories that last a lifetime.
Peace on earth – and within your home – this holiday season. DCP
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To follow Craig’s journey in raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
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