When I think of things that always seem to put life into proper perspective I think of the holidays…and children.
Holiday traditions inspire us to reminisce about our own childhood memories and urge us to pack as much magic as we can into these special times of the year with our kids.
While this time of year, in particular, seems to bring what really matters in life into focus, in reality, our children are always telling us what really matters if we’re listening.
I recently read this beautiful article where children in the palliative stage of cancer share what really matters most to them. In addition to making me start to cry, their pure and wise insights also made me start to think.
More specifically, about my own harried approach to the upcoming holiday season.
How many toys should we buy this year? They never last for long but are so fun on Christmas morning…
Why did I volunteer for all of these school activities last month, now I’m swamped and overbooked.
If these kids would just give me some space I could actually get something done before the company comes!
As I finished reading the profound words in the article I felt like I had been kicked in the gut.
I realized I was in a place where many of us end up during the leadup to winter holidays, chasing the wrong wish-list, at the expense of what truly mattered to my children.
While the world tells our children they should want the newest RC car or tiny doll packaged up inside a plastic ball, the things children really want this time of year never change. (Hint: they can’t be found in a store.)
Even though our kids don’t always have the words or opportunities to communicate these things directly to us, if we look carefully, we can see they are in fact, the things that make up the fibers of humanity.
It’s no coincidence that everything that these brave, beautiful and courageous souls mentioned mattered most to them, were not only things every child truly wants, but also things every child truly needs.
We know from extensive research that humans have many physical, emotional and social needs necessary to not only survive but to thrive and live life to the fullest.
As it turns out, the things our children truly want during the holidays are the same things they need all year long, and many of them don’t cost a dime, but the value they offer is enormous.
Priceless gifts to give your child this holiday season
Let’s be honest, most of us are already walking around in overdrive mode half the time, and the holiday season seems to bring this parenting stress to a crescendo. When we’re mentally and physically overloaded and in ‘holiday burnout mode’ by the time the holidays actually arrive, we’re not able to show up for our child the way they need us to, and instead, we’re crabby, tired and impatient.
The reality is, in 10 or 20 years, our child is not going to remember every gift they received and how perfect the wrapping looked. They’ll remember the feeling they had and the energy that surrounded them during this special time of year. Will they look back on holiday stress or holiday magic?
To cook/eat together
While food is a basic need, participating in the experience of preparing and enjoying food together goes beyond physical sustenance to emotional sustenance.
The sensory experience of eating allows our brains to process memories of smells and tastes in a different way, and food is a valuable way to share cultural traditions and memories, as well as to pass them on to the next generation.
To play with you
Kids don’t need expensive toys, but they do need to play. It’s vital to their healthy development and emotional well-being. What’s even better than giving your child time to play? Setting time aside to play with them. Engaging in play alongside your child makes them feel seen and valued, as play is a young child’s primary language of communication.
Step into their world by getting down on their level and tapping into the magic that can only happen within the confines (or lack thereof) of play.
To be a part of something bigger
Turning the spotlight from selfish to self-less during the holiday is something that will stick with your child forever.
In addition to putting down lifelong roots of empathy, kindness, and generosity in your child, don’t be surprised if they let you know the way they feel leaving the toy drive or food bank is even better than getting that present they wanted so much.
To read together
Reading books with your child has been found to boost dozens of amazing social, emotional and cognitive skills, but it’s also a beautiful way to connect and reflect on the traditions and stories that mean the most to your family.
Stories create their own kind of magic for the human brain, so make time to cuddle up with a warm blanket and share some magic with your child.
To be heard and seen
While rushing around in the midst of holiday preparation it’s easy to view our kids as objects blocking our to-do list instead of little humans who need our time and attention to be at their best.
Slowing down will allow you to notice them. Their emotions, behaviors and what they may need at the moment to be at their best during this stressful time of year. You’ll never regret stopping to listen to your 5 -year-old tell you all about the details of the Christmas tree he colored or listening to your daughter rehearse her one-line holiday concert solo. You might regret not stopping though.
Your patience and unconditional love
Children are brand new human beings learning everything about the world around them, and as we chose to help grow one, it’s our responsibility to allow them room not only to be an imperfect human but also to struggle and make mistakes as they grow and develop, even when that looks like a monster tantrum at the big holiday meal.
Children are always doing the best they can and supporting their holiday struggles with loving-kindness and understanding is always the best path to calm, connection and learning.
Your child doesn’t need much during the holidays
The way you show up during the holidays will bring the magic with or without all the toys on their wish-list.
This holiday season let’s chase after a different list…time, laughter and connection. This list will not only keep your pocketbook full but also your child’s heart.
The holidays will always be busy but don’t forget to prioritize the things that really matter to your child, during the holidays, and all year long.
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