Here we are again, in the middle of another holiday season. Some of us cruise through the holidays, and others succumb to the stress and the never-ending parade of events and obligations. We’ve all been thinking about gifts, decorations, family visits, and holiday meals. Let’s take a minute to think about our kids.
The holiday season can be dangerous for children, especially young children. We decorate our homes with holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias – all of which can be poisonous to children. We trim our trees with glass ornaments, tinsel, and lights – all of which can be hazardous to children. We cook, serve, and re-serve holiday meals that may not have been adequately refrigerated between servings – and some children will get food poisoning. We travel and visit with friends and family – and expose ourselves and our children to all sorts of germs. Should this put a damper on your holiday activities? NO!! But be aware of potential hazards and plan ahead to avoid the obvious ones. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
My oldest son was a highly mobile, curious toddler during his second holiday season, and he was fascinated by the Christmas tree. We ended up building a log fence around the tree! We avoided candles, glass ornaments, tinsel, and poinsettias. We hosted the holiday festivities rather than traveling. It made the season more fun and less stressful for everyone in the family.
Holiday gift-giving is one of the most stressful parts of the season, and definitely the most expensive. When families focus on traditions, fellowship, and the “reason for the season” rather than on gifts, everyone has a more enjoyable time!
What will your kids remember when they’re grown – the expensive ski boots or the family caroling expeditions? Will they think about the bulging Christmas stocking or the Christmas Eve service at church? Will they remember what they got, or what they gave? Focus on gifts from the heart rather than gifts from the store.
Children love family activities in which they play a meaningful part. If you’re hosting the holiday meal this year, let your kids help plan the menu, make the centerpiece, set the table, and help in the kitchen. The house may not look perfect if the kids help decorate, but it will look warm and loving. Family gift-giving is more fun when everyone has selected or made a small gift for everyone else in the family – even the little kids.
And speaking of gift-giving, most children want to remember their teachers with a gift during the holiday season. Here’s a hint: Teachers don’t want knick-knacks, mugs, or another World’s Best Teacher plaque. Teachers enjoy handmade cards, notes, and drawings. They appreciate a small gift card. They love it when parents donate a book to the school library in their honor. Let your child select, wrap, and present the gift. Teachers cherish the gifts that come straight from a child’s heart.
Many schools, churches, and communities participate in holiday charities like Angel Tree or Toys for Tots. Charitable giving and volunteer work are wonderful ways to involve children in giving as well as receiving – an important life lesson. Remember to be careful about protecting the identity and dignity of classmates who may be recipients of charitable holiday giving.
If you and your ex-spouse share children, the holiday season can be particularly difficult. The kids have to come first! So compromise, take turns, and keep agreements about gift-giving and schedules. Your kids will not enjoy the holidays if they are part of a tug-of-war and a game of one-upmanship. Take the high road – your children will remember and appreciate your efforts.
So don’t overdo and overspend, and don’t be a perfectionist. Enjoy your family, make your own traditions, and let everyone in the family contribute to the celebration. Focus on gifts from the heart – and that will be a gift to your whole family!