Holiday Tips for Parents

The Christmas holidays can be a special time for children of all ages. But amid the holiday rush, it can be hard for parents, let alone children and adolescents, to keep their focus on the meaning of Christmas. Michelle Garofalo, coordinator of Marymount University’s School Counseling program, offers some practical advice on how to make the holidays a time to teach, to build traditions and to celebrate together.

Provide opportunities for children to give of themselves. It’s important for children to learn that holidays are about giving rather than getting. Children are naturally generous; they enjoy helping others. However, if mom buys a toy, and the child simply drops it in the Toys-for-Tots box, an opportunity is missed. Even a five-year-old can help make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and deliver them to a shelter, or use his or her allowance money to buy a small gift to donate. Children can also go through outgrown clothing or toys and put together a box of items for children in need. Be sure to take your child along for the delivery.

Help children focus on their faith. Tell and show them what the holiday is all about. Participating in services and activities in your faith community provides a sense of belonging. At home, religious traditions like lighting advent candles and saying prayers before meals integrate faith into daily life. Teach children to be thankful. Focus on the positive — health, happiness, family, friends, etc. — rather than possessions. Children can write down what they are thankful about (or you can write what they tell you) on small pieces of paper, which can be place on a bulletin board or tree or in a clear glass jar. In this way, children can “see” what they have to be thankful for.

Take time for your family; have fun. Holidays are family time. Create a happy atmosphere by baking, reading aloud, sledding, making gifts together, or looking at family photos and sharing family stories. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holidays make you grouchy. Focus on the process rather than the product. It’s OK if the gingerbread house is lopsided.

Build and carry on family traditions. Traditions become memories. And common memories tie family members together through the years. They provide reliability and security. In addition to religious traditions, you might have a traditional family gathering of the generations, a special meal, a certain way of decorating your home. Traditions are built of little things joyfully repeated each year.

Make New Year’s resolutions with your children. The New Year is a time of hope, not just a time to have parties and celebrate. Discuss the year ahead with children. Ask them what they will do in the New Year to be the best person they can. They can write their resolutions down and post them where they will serve as reminders. Resolutions teach about planning and follow-through.

Serve as a model. Children learn by observing. They need us to serve as models. It’s our own actions that teach, so we need to make sure we’re sending the right message. Are we thinking about others during the busy holiday season? Are we stressed out by shopping and entertaining? Have we ourselves lost touch with what the holiday means to us? Laugh with your children; hug them; and celebrate with them. During this holiday season, remember to take time to enjoy your greatest gifts — your children.

(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)

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