Bonnie and I wish you a blessed holiday and a time of great rest and renewal of your soul. Have fun, enjoy your children and savour the memories that you are creating together. We will resume blogging the first week of January.
As the “Big Day” draws close you will have plenty of opportunity to go to Christmas plays, parties, open gifts as well as enjoying all the sounds and smells of the season. In our home the first thing to mark the season is the playing of Christmas carols. (The truth is that at some point in July I try to get away with playing them.)
Above all one of the most important gifts you can give as a parent is to be present for your family. There are always many distractions that can occur. Just because its Christmas doesn’t mean that you automatically get time off from your work. However, when the family is together “be present” in every way. If you are working outside your home, when you come home switch work off. Turn off your Blackberry and don’t sit with your laptop pretending to everyone else that you are interested in what is going on. The truth is your laptop doesn’t have to be related to work to be a distraction. There is Google to check on, emails, Facebook or Twitter just to mention a few. The message you are conveying is that “thing” is more important than family. So turn the distraction off and turn your attention “on” to your children, your friends or your partner.
At Christmas time family shows are often aired and can be a source of real enjoyment to the whole family together. But television can also be another huge distraction. To have the TV on only causes eyes to glance at something that could catch their attention and before long you can be totally absorbed in something completely irrelevant.
As gifts are opened the children will want you to either help them put something together, read the instructions, or just play with them. To do this you need to be present in every capacity. If your mind is on work or what your money is or isn’t doing for you or the multitude of other things around, you will resent the demands and the expectation. So, mentally prepare yourself. Speak to your partner and discuss what the plan is for the day so the two of you are working together.
If you are present and fully engaged with the family, you will enjoy your time together and have fun. As a family you will create fond memories that will last a lifetime.
What can you do to nurture appreciation over this Christmas season so that it doesn’t all boil down to what is under the tree? Good question!
Here are a few ideas that if you put them into practise you will develop a family that is not driven by the “spirit of the age” – gimme, gimme, gimme!
1. Practise the art of giving outside of the family. A great project to get the children involved in is Operation Christmas Child. The organization is a good one supplying children around the globe that have nothing with a shoebox full of age related items; everything from crayons to a toothbrush. It is good for children to go to a store and buy for someone else and then give it away. You could even do a box or two as a family project.
2. Limit the number of gifts you buy for each child. We also had them draw names so they only had one gift to buy a sibling and they had a limit as to how much they would spend. They still do this now even as they have gotten married. The spouses’ names have been added into the draw.
3. If they have gifts from other family and friends, have them start opening one gift a day from a few days before Christmas. This way they can actually see what it is and play with it. This will create a greater appreciation even for the little things.
4. While you are in the midst of gift opening do it one gift and one person at a time. Have the children watch each other opening the gift. When anyone has opened the gift, have him or her go to the person, if they are there, say, ‘thank you’ and give the person a hug. Yes, this will prolong your gift exchange but it teaches your children two important lessons: patience and appreciation. Two lessons in life that are so important. They need to learn that everything is not all about them!
5. Model appreciation yourself. When you open your gift, savour it, then get up and go to your child or spouse and say ‘thank you’. Make a fuss and model your gratitude.
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. Enjoy every moment and do it with appreciation in your heart and your family will do it with you!
I love the Christmas season: the carols, the lights, the Christmas tree, the smell of mulled wine and all the fabulous baking that comes with the season. What a delight! I remember the Christmas when I was pregnant with the twins. Our whole family got together and we only had one child in the family to spoil – and spoil we all did. He had a mountain of gifts under the tree, something special from all of us.
We sat and watched with delight as our nephew tore into gift after gift. His eyes dancing with joy as he ripped into the first few. However, toward the middle and increasingly towards the end of these gifts, one melted into the other and it became very apparent that at the end of it all he would not even remember what he got at the beginning. By the end of this frantic activity he stood up with his hand on his hips and said, “Is that all there is?”
At that moment Jim and I decided that Christmas was not going to be all about the presents. Furthermore we tried to make every gift be appreciated and the giver thanked. With the smells and sounds of Christmas comes the gifts but as parents we have a responsibility to decide how much of the consumer age we want our families to partake in. You need to make this decision with your partner so that you are both in agreement. The expectations of what you are going to spend needs to be made very clear. Set the boundaries in place and stick to them.
Children do not need every item that is advertised on television. “Stuff” will not make your child a better person. Gift giving is not evil but what children really need to learn is to appreciate what they receive and the joy of giving themselves. Don’t feel guilted into supplying your child with everything they want. You do not want to foster greed but you do want to encourage appreciation.