The Christmas countdown has officially begun, folks. As impossible as it may seem, we are 24 days away from the big day. I’ve got my Christmas list and I’m definitely checking it twice! How about you? The holidays is such a busy time with lots of moving parts from baking holiday treats, shopping, wrapping gifts, school activities and all the various festivities that make the season special. And intermixed between everything we do in the next 24 days, there are lots of great teachable moments for our kids too.
Magical Christmas Lessons
I’ve always been a huge proponent of finding teachable moments to help instill family values in children. Kids respond better to seeing and doing, rather than just being told, which is too often our default. When kids are a part of the lesson, it actually stops feeling like one to them. Make sure to take advantage of the ample teaching opportunities Christmas offers us, including the following lessons:
1. Emphasize Family Traditions
Christmas presents may be a young child’s top priority, but as they grow older, the lure of gifts begin to fade and are replaced by a greater appreciation of family traditions. The girls are still young enough where the excitement of opening their presents on Christmas morning is what they look forward to the most, but I can already see the shift beginning to happen.
One tradition we have is making orange marmalade. The girls are not big fans of orange marmalade, but they look forward to making it because it signals the start of our holiday traditions. I know some day the girls will carry on some of our family traditions with their children while they create some new ones too.
Your To-Do: What are your family’s holiday traditions? If you don’t have any, then consider creating some. They don’t need to be expensive or difficult, instead they should be things you enjoy and can do every holiday season. Some ideas include: baking treats to give to family and friends, going sledding or ice-skating, watching a favorite holiday movie or making gingerbread homes.
2. Appreciation of Delayed Gratification
An inability to delay gratification creates financial trouble for many people. Christmas is a surprisingly great time to show your kids how good delayed gratification can actually feel. Marketers do a particularly excellent job of getting kids to “want” during the holidays. It’s up to us to help our kids differentiate between hype and actual desire, then to help them be patient until Christmas morning.
The wait to see if Santa or Grandpa and Grandma gave them their desired gifts may have felt torturous, but there was a significant payoff. They still received the gifts they desired most without having to use any of their hard-earned money, an important lesson for them to embrace – knowing what they truly desire and working/saving towards it.
Your To-Do: Be sure to help them think through how to best use any money/gift cards they received over Christmas, including knowing when to save for something they truly desire. Be sure the you demonstrate or model this behavior too.
3. The Joy of Sharing with Others
While we definitely give back throughout the year, our Christmas giving is always a bit extra special to us. Because so much of Christmas has become commercial, it is more important than ever to make a conscious effort to focus on sharing. We counterbalance consumerism with giving in our home.
Your To-Do: How will you give back this holiday season? We typically adopt a family and the girls love helping purchasing new gifts, but they also personally donate some of their own clothes and toys to share with the kids too. They give generously, because as big as the recipients’ smiles are, their smiles are even bigger. However you decide to share, whether it’s money, gifts or time, make sure to involve your kids in your holiday giving plans.
4. The Power of Renewal
Much of our attention is rightly focused on Christmas, but what comes afterwards: a new year with new goals. Don’t wait until January (or later) to start conversations around family and individual goals. Review the past year’s achievements and failures and how you’ll use any lessons learned when it comes to setting new goals.
It’s easy to get stuck on the things didn’t go as planned, but that’s also the beauty of goal-setting. They are always being renewed and re-calibrated. We don’t want to ignore past failures, but we also don’t need to dwell on them. Learn and move forward, that’s my motto and it’s an important lesson for kids to experience too.
Your To-Do: I know it’s a busy time, but make a point to talk about goals during a meal. Celebrate accomplishments, commiserate over failures while emphasizing learnings and start planning for the future. Remind kids that goal-setting is an ongoing process.
5. How Blessed We Truly Are
Gratitude is something that has played a huge role in my life. It’s very easy to get caught up in what’s not working and forget about our many #blessings. Besides celebrating the birth of Jesus, Christmas is a time of love and acknowledging our good fortune in the Ryan household. It’s easy to adopt a humbug attitude to all the consumerism or forget the true meaning with the hustle and bustle of the season, so I encourage you to slow down. Breathe. And reflect upon your many blessings this holiday season.
Your To-Do: For the month of December, have everyone share a blessing or something they are thankful for every day during a meal. Try your best to avoid repeating the same blessing and help open your children’s eyes and hearts to all the wonderful things in their lives.
Don’t Miss Out on These Teachable Moments
You certainly don’t want to take away that sense of magic and joy that comes with the holiday season, but also don’t fear taking advantage of the many teachable moments it offers. These lessons are gifts and their value will long outlast their counterparts found underneath the tree this year. The truth is these lessons are what help create the magic.
What do you look forward to most during the holidays? What other teachable moments have you taught your kids over the holidays?
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