It's time once again to begin preparing for the holidays and gearing up for family, fun, and festivals. The kids will be getting excited and home for school vacation. Here are eight tips for ensuring a happier holiday season.
TIP # 1: Good Behavior in Someone Else's Home
At some point prior to arriving at someone else's home for a holiday party, get to your child's eye level and go over the rules for being at the party. You may even ask them to explain the rules to you and don't be surprised if they already know. Throughout the event, acknowledge them every time you witness the behavior you want. If their behavior has been a problem in the past, tell them there will be a consequence to bad behavior and that consequence will be leaving the party. If you choose this option, be ready to implement it immediately, and don't punish them. The punishment is the departure itself and your complete silence on the drive home.
TIP # 2: Reduce the Toys and Gifts
A few weeks before the holiday season arrives, allow your child to lead an activity to thin out the usable toys and clothes they already have and then donate them to a local charity. Let your child have as much participation in the process, especially the delivery to the donation center. Commit to buying your children less toys. Too many can create visual chaos and excess stimulation, and certainly do not teach crucial lessons of moderation and limits.
TIP # 3: Take Care of Yourself
When you become stressed over the holidays, your appearance of being frantic and frazzled will be felt by the children and they too will begin to simulate it in their own way. Take time out for yourself to recharge your batteries. You need extra rest, exercise, and healthy eating, ingredients for greater self-control and patience.
TIP # 4: Teach Children Gratitude
Make it a priority to get your family involved in a giving exercise this holiday season. Donate your time to volunteer for a charitable organization by wrapping gifts for a gift collection agency, delivering a meal to a shut-in, or serving the hungry at a soup kitchen. This act of compassion will remain with your children for a very long time. During the thanksgiving holiday, my family and I would prepare and deliver a meal to an elderly person living alone. I'll never forget the year we delivered our dinner to an elderly lady who was so grateful for our gift, she cried as we left. My son was silent as we drove away and he had tears welling in his eyes.
TIP # 5: Don't Over Schedule
During the holidays we automatically think about wanting to connect and be with family and friends. But if past holidays have not been fond memories because of over scheduling, reconsider your plans for this year and commit to simplifying the family calendar or take a vacation away from home. This move may require having to say no to some invitations or changing routines. One family we connect with often makes it a point to avoid the holiday rush. They plan plenty of get-togethers throughout the year and then disappear at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas to take cruises, go to Disney, or travel to see family out of state.
TIP # 6: Set Realistic Expectations for the Kids
Let's face it; December can be a stressful month for the kids and stressful or busy times for you. This guarantees that your children are going to behave differently and it will be a challenge getting them to cooperate and remain calm. Clarify your boundaries and rules and be patient when their excitement gets in the way. Remind yourself about the true meaning of the holidays; it's not about having the perfect family. A big mistake parents make is remembering the holidays from their childhood and trying to recreate them today.
TIP # 7: Create the Reverence of New Traditions
Participating in family traditions that were passed down can be fun and exciting, but it can also add to the stress of the holidays when it means having to recreate complex meals, trips, and events that originally belonged to someone else. Take bold steps to create new traditions for your immediate family that will leave lasting impressions, regardless of how simple they might be. When my children were young, we started a new tradition of allowing the kids to open one gift on Christmas Eve. We intentionally gave them new pajamas in this one special gift and they would be the pajamas they would wear to bed that night. Each year after that, I came up with fun and creative ways of disguising the gift to keep them guessing, because they knew what they would find in the packages. Creating new and fun traditions and faithfully celebrating them each year with consistency will teach your children how to do it themselves when they have families of their own.
TIP # 8: Be the Person You Want Your Children to Be
Finally, there is no better way to teach your children how to enjoy the holidays than to demonstrate being the person you want them to be. The most powerful training your children will ever have is the observations they make of your behavior on a daily basis. Work hard to remain calm and loving throughout the holidays. When you find yourself on the threshold of an emotional reaction to someone else's behavior, ask yourself if what you're about to say or do will bring your family closer together, or create more distance. Being close of course, is what the holidays are all about!