Friday, December 19, 2008

Getting the kids Involved in the Holidays

For whatever reason, I've always seen images in the media of people stressed out and upset during the holidays. As an adult, I've heard time and time again people complain about present shopping or stress or family or whatever. I can't count how many people I've heard utter relief at the end of the holiday season.

I think that sucks.

No one is putting a gun to anyone's head and forcing them to celebrate. The holidays are about family, togetherness, fun, happiness, and a lot of other stuff (depending on your religious bent) that is primarily good. You should be aware of the stress you bring into the house and how it effects the kids who just want to have an enjoyable season.

We try to have a pretty simple holiday, as far as presents are concerned. We don't want to bring a bunch of unwanted stuff into our house which is already crowded with too much. We try to limit what we get the kids to a toy, a game, a book, and whatever Santa decides to stuff they're stockings with. But then we pick up an extra thing here or there. And then our families send presents. So we do end up having an obscene amount of gifts under the tree.

I want my kids to feel the giving part of it, too. We donate a toy to a toys-for-tots program and let them pick it out. But as far as giving presents to other family members, they just can't keep secrets.

I can't even take these kids shopping with me when I'm looking for things for Mom because they'd spill the beans with enthusiasm the moment we get home. So we try to get them excited about other people's presents through a different means.

Decorating the present is a great way that they can take pride in gift-giving without giving up all the surprise. I wrap my wife's presents in brown paper and let them have at it with markers, stamps, stickers, and whatever else they want. Then, when Mom sees them, they are excited to show them off and take part of the credit for the gift as a whole.

When I was little, we used to make wrapping paper. We'd pick up a roll of butcher paper (I asked for some today at my grocery store and I swear the dude almost hit me before saying no; I have no idea what made him so angry) and make stamps to decorate the paper. We'd cut potatoes and apples into candy canes, stars, Christmas trees, and whatever else we wanted. We'd dip the stamps in paint and have at it.

There are lots of ways to get your kids involved in the holidays without emphasizing the commercial aspects. Cookie decorating, ornament making, greeting card designing, and a million more ideas that I'm sure are floating out there in your family's traditions.

The important thing is this: slow down, have fun, and look through their eyes. Take a look at what values you're modeling when it comes to the holidays and be sure to model them thoughtfully. Presents are a highlight, yes, an exciting interpretation of love and family that a kid can understand, grasping in reality rather than thinking in abstraction. With kids, showing is much more communicable than telling. Don't focus and fret on the metaphor and forget to show them what it's really about.

1 comment:

Jennifer Chernoff said...

I love the wrapping paper thing. I think I am going to try to hit up the butchers shop at some point and ask them to order an extra roll of paper(if it is not cheaper than buying some from the school if they let us). When we where kids we did the same thing. Our Gparents would bring a big roll of butcher paper for whatever we wished. I hope if I ask in advance they won't try to hurt me. :P I also hope it doesn't cost TOO much-but then with all the printer paper we go through it might be a savings.