If you are anything like me, this time of year you already have holidays on the brain. In the past, we’ve had years where the holidays have been hurried and stressed, so honestly, I didn’t really look forward to it. But I have also learned a few things that seem to help my kids and I enjoy the holidays and look forward to them with great anticipation.
They don’t overschedule
Over scheduling activities is easy to do. After all, there is SO much to do during the holiday season — go see family, attend 12 Christmas parties, go see Santa, see the lights, and the list could go on for days.
Because we tend to want to make the holidays special for our kids, we can sometimes overdo it, and miss the chance to slow down and enjoy the moment.
So what can help?
They schedule a few “do nothing” days during the holiday season
We all need peace and quiet, even our kids although they don’t always recognize it. So try and schedule out plenty of time to do nothing and see what happens!
One of my favorite memories was a “do nothing” day like last Christmas.
We intentionally planned nothing. We got up and made waffles just because we were in the mood. Then, we sat in our pajamas for hours as kids took turns crawling in and out of my lap, laughing and chatting, playing a couple of games — it was so simple, yet wonderfully memorable.
Times like this can be a much-needed reset for your family during the holiday season.
Sometimes the best thing we can give our children during this season is space to just be. We have found that this space gives us the opportunity to meet each child where they are at, instead of filling our calenar with endless activities.
They stick with traditions, but don’t get legalistic about it
I love, love, love family traditions! I mean I love them. Even as a teenager if my mom tried to change one thing about the holidays I would freak out. One time she suggested getting a fake tree instead of a real one, and I threatened to change families.
I have mellowed out over the years but I still revel in holiday family traditions. Traditions give identity and a sense of belonging to your children. Rhythms help them know what to expect and what to look forward to.
Traditions are so much fun and can be a great way to embed meaning into a holiday. Here are a few ideas for you!
- Read the Christmas story every Christmas morning before anything else happens
I treasure this time every year — my father, with all the grandchildren at his feet, reading the greatest story ever heard as their sweet faces take in his rich baritone voice speaking the truth that he lives out daily. It brings me to tears even now on this fall day in October. Make these things that form your family a priority.
- Have your kids do an advent calendar
Read about the advent tradition and check out these advent calendar ideas in this post here!
- Make traditional meals for Christmas morning or Christmas eve
Whatever meal your family enjoys, Christmas morning, eve, or dinner can be a great time to enjoy it together year after year.
- Drink egg nog and decorate the tree together
- Give them new pajamas on Christmas Eve
- Make Christmas cookies and give them out as gifts to the neighbors.
- Take an evening drive to look at all the Christmas lights
At the same time, having too many traditions can be draining.
Because of Pinterest and social media in general, we now have access to everyone’s traditions everywhere. It’s easy to start comparing and feel like we need to take on ALL the traditions in the world to make our holidays spectacular.
But sometimes, selecting the things that are truly important to who you are as a family, the more you will enjoy them. Simplicity will give you more mental and emotional energy to be present and that’s better for your kids than another tradition you feel pressured to keep up with.
They try new things during the holiday season
Our kids are 9, 7, and 5. I have always loved the idea of doing gingerbread houses, but for a while, our kids were so small that it was one of those activities we left off of the list. We knew that as fun as it sounded, with three tiny kiddos, it could very well be a disaster.
Last year we finally did gingerbread houses and it was one of our favorite nights of the holiday season! The kids were all able to do it somewhat independently with a little help from us here and there. We ate candy and decorated our tiny houses for hours.
It was so fun to add this new activity to our holiday fun.
They involve their kids in the holiday plans!
The more you get your kids on board with making holiday plans, the more you will get them excited about what's to come. Ask them to help you make a list of new things that would be fun for your family to try this holiday season, then vote as a family which one's you want to try.
Getting your kids involved in some of the planning and preparation helps them take on some of the responsibility for making the season enjoyable. It will also help them consider one another, as their sibling's ideas might be different than theirs.
They encourage an outward focus
Some of the most precious memories during the holidays revolve around being more "outwardly focused" instead of "inwardly focused." This is the number one gift you can give your kids over the holidays is to help them understand that it's not always all about them. Here are some questions that can help frame selfless thinking.
- Who can we serve this season?
- What can we give this season?
- Is there someone you know who might want a special gift this year?
- What are some things you want to do for so and so?
One great idea is to turn the advent calendar into a way to serve! I love this idea to make the Advent calendar a tradition that serves others. This makes what is traditionally a self-focused activity into an opportunity to look outward and think about others.
Children learn by watching us. Take a brief internal inventory to ask yourself -- where are my energy, time, and money focused during the holidays? Is my time mostly taken up by decorating, shopping, making lists and attending parties? As all of those things are wonderful things, I can’t expect my children to be focused outward if I am not demonstrating that with my time and energy.
Let them see you take meals to families who need them. Bake cookies and let the kids deliver them to the neighbors. Help someone hang Christmas lights who can’t do it on their own. Make it a priority to help others enjoy the holidays and your kids will be watching!
They let go of perfection
This one seems like it should be easy, but it's the one that's worth repeating the most.
Let go of perfection.
Would you rather remember the holidays with your children snuggling up under blankets and reading Christmas stories or making sure your mantel had the latest and greatest decor that year? Pick the things that are important and give those things your time and energy.
If making your home feel festive is a way that your family connects and enjoys one another then do that, but don’t feel like you have to bake every cookie under the sun. You get the picture.
Do not waste your emotional energy trying to keep up with everything.
Choose carefully so that you still have the energy to play with your kids or serve your neighbor. Wanting everything to be perfect can easily steal your joy from the moment. Take time to be thankful for your family and your kids. They will notice. They will benefit light-years more from your peace and joy than from a perfect Christmas card or a perfect tree.
Take a deep breath! You don’t have to do it all for your kids to have a great holiday season.
In fact, doing less is probably just what they need. Look at their little faces, serve together, read books, laugh, have tickle fights. Don't let the pressure of what everyone else is doing steal your joy! If you are enjoying the holidays they are likely to follow your lead!