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7 Ways to Make the Holidays Special for Your Children

7 Ways to Make the Holidays Special for Your Children

This time of year can be challenging for any parent. As schools, businesses, churches and communities everywhere are gearing up to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas, the days and weeks ahead can become crammed with activities that will wear out any child and their parents.

But a conscientious parent will search for ways to teach their children the true meaning of the holidays, so they don’t get lost and confused by the commercialism promoted by retail stores.

Instead of focusing on the self-absorbed attitude of deciding what they want to get out of it, (like how many toys will Santa bring me) maybe you would prefer that your child learn about why we celebrate these holidays to begin with.

Here are some simple things you can do to help your child learn the traditional meaning of the holidays, while giving them something they can treasure about the upcoming events.

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1. Bake something

This is one of the easiest ways to show your kids what a special time the holidays are.  You can teach them how to bake cookies. Maybe you can pass on an old family recipe, as you show them step-by-step how to do it. Of course, with younger children, you will need to take precautions, and show them how to be safe when using sharp instruments and doing things near hot ovens.

Pink Sherbet on flickr

    2. Find magic in the holidays

    Wherever you live, your children should be able to see the splendor of all the lights and trees and decorations that are put up in your area. Maybe you can take them to see a water fountain in a park nearby that is illuminated at night by colorful lights. Just going for a drive in the car to see how other people decorate their houses and put up lights, or a trip to the city for a festive event can be a fun outing for them. And the joy that you express over the holidays is something your children will see and appreciate along with you.

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    by DncnH at Flickr

      Alisha Vargas at Flickr

        3. Make something

        Here is one of the easiest things for any child to do, because there are so many different kinds of crafts they can try. You can help them by coming up with creative ideas. They can make different things for Thanksgiving and then other types of things for Christmas. Each child should be able to make something all by themselves, or with a little bit of your help, that they can give to someone else, like a friend at school or daycare. Or, they may find it fun to just make it and give it to you.

        Terren in Virginia at Flickr

          4. Help someone in need

          One of the most important and valuable lessons any parent can teach a child is for them to learn how to do something to help others. Whether it is helping a friend do their homework, or helping an elderly person with yard work, doesn’t matter. What really matters is that they learn to give some of their time and energy in a way that will help someone else. They learn to give, rather than take. And, in the process, they will learn to value how it makes them feel good inside to do it.

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          Torrey Wiley on flickr

            5. Learn holiday songs

            Much of the fun during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays comes from the joyous sound of people singing. Maybe you can spend some family time singing songs while gathered around the firepit in the backyard. You can teach your children how to sing or play some of your favorite and traditional songs, or you can take them to an event where there is singing and or dancing. The viewing of cultural events during the holidays is something that every child should have an opportunity to do. Even if you are away from home and  traveling with your children, you can still sing holiday songs with them wherever you are.

            6. Write what it means to them

            As your children grow from toddlers to school age youngsters, an important part of their learning, is learning how to express themselves. You can make plans to have family discussions about the meaning of the holidays and they can talk about their feelings, or share their ideas. Writing them down in a notebook or in cards to mail out to friends and family is a great thing to teach your children, that they can carry on throughout their lives.

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            Photopin

              7. Take them to a holiday movie

              Going to a holiday movie with your child is another fun thing to do this time of year. There are usually a few animated Disney movies that come out in the winter time, especially for young people. Going to a movie will show your children that they can enjoy doing things with you that will benefit them. This can be one way that they learn to enjoy doing things that are fun and important to them, and not just having to always do what grownups do.

              Watching a movie can spark their imaginations and creativity and show them what a fun time they can have with the family.

              Taber Andrew Baln at Flickr

                You may find the holidays a lot more enjoyable if you remember  these 7 simple ways to have fun with your kids. When they get a chance to bake something, look for joy, make something, help someone in need, learn holiday songs, write what the holidays mean to them, and enjoy a favorite holiday movie, they will probably come away with more of the magic of the season and less of the materialism.

                Featured photo credit: Ambuja Saxena at Flickr via flickr.com

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                Karen Bresnahan

                Photographer/Writer/Artist

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                Published on September 10, 2020

                How to Be a Better Parent: 11 Things to Remember

                How to Be a Better Parent: 11 Things to Remember

                Two of the most challenging jobs in the world are raising a human being and being the best parent possible for them. Raising a child without implementing specific rules is not enough, however. The job has to be done in such a way that when you’re “done,” you’ve already created a loving, responsible, self-sufficient, kind-hearted, thoughtful, empathic, and respectful persona. Hence, it is ideal to lower the bar a little and start learning how to be a better parent.

                Don’t get me wrong; mistakes will be made along the way. You won’t be perfect, regardless of how hard you try.

                And no matter how great a job you do, your child may have issues beyond your control. Remember, they will be born with a will of their own that may conflict with yours. Nevertheless, carrying out the following tips will provide you with the best chance to create a fantastic human being of whom you can be proud.

                1. Listen

                I knew a couple who had a daughter. She was smart, sweet, and as cute as a button, but her parents were old school. They believed the adage that a child should be seen and not heard. She might as well have been a doll in a curio cabinet. Unfortunately, this little girl had a lot of exciting ideas and things to say. I knew this because she would share them with me on the occasions that we were alone.

                Children are interesting, funny, and curious, and they look upon you — their parent — as a hero. They have a wealth of knowledge and a great perspective on life. Listening to your child is one of the greatest gifts you can offer. They will feel valued and grow up knowing that they matter.

                It’s not always easy to listen. Sometimes, children will carry on without saying anything profound. But if they believe you’re listening, they will feel important and provide you with amazing nuggets of information.

                Note: Make a real and honest effort when you are listening to your children. Don’t listen while multitasking and muttering, “Hmm, that’s nice, dear!”

                Sadly, I’ve seen lots of parents on their phones, their heads buried in Facebook or Instagram feed, while their child tries unsuccessfully to get their attention. In his book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, M. D., wrote, “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time. True listening, total concentration on the other, is always a manifestation of love.”

                2. Provide Unconditional Love

                I knew a mother who loved her son so much, but her love came at a high price. When he behaved as she expected him to — getting recognition for being a star athlete or academic achievements — she showered him with love. In truth, she bragged and put up framed newspaper articles of her son’s accomplishments.

                That same boy, though, went through a rough patch when he was a senior, becoming unruly and hostile. Down came the framed article, and up came the silent treatment.

                Providing unconditional love creates a secure bond and a healthy person. Knowing you have your parent’s love no matter what makes a fantastic anchor for the child. They know they can mess up and still be loved. They know they can come to you with their worst offenses, and while you might get upset, your love will remain intact.

                3. Teach by Example

                Children watch and listen to you very closely. You may think that they’re not paying attention, that they’re in the other room, playing with their Legos, but they are listening.

                If you want to teach your child, lead by example.

                For instance, if you want them to eat healthy foods, eat healthy foods. If you don’t want them to pick up bad habits, like smoking, don’t smoke. If you don’t want them to be violent, be peaceful. If you wish to raise a trustworthy child, keep your word.[1]

                If you want to teach your child how to communicate, speak kindly and listen with an open heart. Whatever you want your child to learn, be willing to do it yourself. You are the best teacher for the job!

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                4. Spend Time Together Often

                Life is full of work, errands, get-togethers, appointments, etc. It’s easy to get lost in all the hustle and bustle and not leave enough time for your children. I know busy parents who set their children down on the couch to watch TV or play with an iPad while they’re working.

                Occasionally, that isn’t a bad thing. But regularly, it can create a gap between you and your child.

                You can avoid being an absentee parent by spending time with your children every day. Talk to them about anything; ask about their day. If you can, allow them to help you with household chores. E.g., cleaning, folding laundry or stacking dishes in the dishwasher.

                They’ll feel good when they know you need them, and you can use this as a family bonding opportunity.

                5. Follow Through

                Follow through creates trust in your child. They will believe that what you say you’re going to do will genuinely be done.

                Children are very perceptive. Let me reiterate: they are always watching and listening.

                For instance, I was on a walk one afternoon with my granddaughter and her parents. The little girl was asked if she wanted to ride the stroller, and she replied, “No, I want to walk.”

                My daughter-in-law responded, “Okay, but if you get tired, I’m not carrying you! Understood?”

                After about 15 minutes, my granddaughter complained that her legs hurt. She started whining and complaining. When my daughter-in-law picked her up, she commented, “I thought you said you weren’t going to pick me up?”

                My daughter-in-law did not follow through, and her daughter knew it. She was only four years old.

                You see, when parents say things and end up not doing them, they become empty threats — words without any back-up.

                Following through is critical in raising a responsible adult. You need to be kind, clear, and concise.

                The child has to know that you mean business. If you tell them they’re not having a sleepover unless their homework is done, then the homework better be done. If it’s not, there will be no sleepover.

                It doesn’t matter if you had plans with your friends or a date with your husband. Just make sure that whatever the consequences are for your kids’ bad behavior, you can back it up with action.

                6. Focus on Positive Qualities

                There is an old American proverb that says, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease/oil.” It is used to communicate the notion that the most clamorous problems are the ones that will more than likely get noticed.

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                If your child is well-behaved and minding their own business, you might be tempted to let them be. On the other hand, if they are acting out and making a raucous, they may get a lot of attention.

                This sends the message that the kids have to misbehave before you focus on them. Bad attention, after all, is better than no attention.

                Positive attention is paramount. If you only pay attention to your child’s negative behavior while ignoring their positive qualities, you are robbing them the chance of being their best selves.

                Simply notice all the things you love about your kids and minimize the criticisms. That’s especially essential when you have children between the ages 0 and 5. Since they are impressionable, whatever you say often will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

                Here are more ideas on how to think positively despite the circumstance: Turn to the Bright Side: 10 Ways to Encourage Post-Incident Positive Thinking

                7. Apologize When Necessary

                We all make mistakes. There are some parents, however, who don’t apologize no matter how many mistakes they make with their children. They incorrectly assume that apologizing is a sign of weakness.

                Well, nothing could be farther from the truth. As we have learned before,[2]

                “Apologizing to your child is a sign of respect for the overall relationship you have with him.”

                Making mistakes is human. I guarantee you that your child will not think less of you. If you fail to apologize, you miss out on a teachable moment about the importance of taking responsibility. After all, you want your child to apologize when they do something wrong.

                If the kids lie, lash out at another child, or break something of value, you want them to own up to it and apologize for what’s happened. It is during these moments that you teach your child that an apology is the right course of action. If you don’t do the same thing, what exactly are you teaching them?

                You may find it difficult to apologize because you feel superior or fear losing your authority. In truth, your child will see you as a human, and they may feel closer to you than ever.

                Show your kid that no one is perfect, that you all make mistakes in life. Apologies can correct so many wrongs. Just a few simple words can cure the worst transgressions.

                A word for the wise: put your ego aside. Say you’re sorry and move on. If you can do that, you will be building a strong relationship — one based on love and respect — with your children.

                8. Allow Kids to Be Who They Want to Be

                My maternal grandfather, Pánfilo D. Camacho, was a lawyer and author in Havana, Cuba.[3] He expected my uncle, Jorge Camacho, to follow in his footsteps.[4] My uncle, however, wanted to be an artist and fulfill his dreams in Paris, France.

                At the time, my grandfather did not see art as a “real job” or something that could provide security. Despite knowing how his father felt, my uncle met with him and explained that his goals. Thankfully, my grandfather thought about it and gave his only son his blessing. He also helped with all the necessary expenses to get my uncle to Paris and study with the best of the best.

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                My uncle became a very celebrated artist in France. Jorge Camacho’s amazing surrealist art is still sold today.

                This scenario could have played out quite differently if my grandfather dug in his heels. He could have forced my uncle to become a lawyer just like him.

                Fortunately, he realized that allowing my uncle to be who he wanted to be was the right thing to do. And it was. My uncle was grateful and made a name for himself. My grandfather was proud, and their relationship grew strong.

                Allow your child to be who they want to be, not who you think they should be. After all, it is their life — their journey. You’re just there to watch and provide guidance whenever necessary.

                9. Grow Along With Your Children

                Children grow and evolve, just like us. It’s important to grow with them and adjust the way you discipline and talk to them.

                For example, if your 4-year-old misbehaves by bending the truth or whining, you may ignore their antics and stay calm with regards to the lying. This is common for this age group.

                If you’re dealing with an 8-year-old, your child understands the difference between right and wrong and looks to you for guidance.[5]

                Meanwhile, teens need to be addressed in another way. That is a difficult and challenging age group — one that deserves great care and attention. You cannot talk to your 16-year-old as if they were still 9!

                10. Validate Their Feelings

                While growing up, lots of things that generate a multitude of feelings happen. As a parent, you want to take the time to validate your child’s feelings. Don’t be dismissive and act like their feelings are not important.

                The other day, my 8.5-year-old granddaughter came over. I could see that she’d been crying. When I asked if she was, she looked at me with sad eyes. My granddaughter informed me that she missed her best friend whom she hadn’t seen for almost six months since the community quarantine began.

                I didn’t say, “Don’t worry about it; you’ll see her someday! Now, run along.” Nope. I looked her in the eye and said, “It must be so tough not to see your best friend for such a long time.”

                My granddaughter’s eyes welled up with tears as she nodded. I validated her feelings, and she felt heard. As it turned out, her little friend was allowed to visit the next day. She came over to my house again, but this time, she exclaimed, “This is the happiest day of my quarantine!”

                If you do not validate your child’s feelings, they will think that their feelings are unimportant and learn not to share them at all. You don’t want that, of course.

                You want to have your finger on the pulse of their emotions. You need to make sure they come to you in the future when heavier things come down the pipe.

                Here’s an example of WHAT NOT TO SAY: Your teenage daughter comes to you and utters, “Richard broke up with me. I’m devastated!” Then, you reply, “Don’t worry about it! There is plenty of fish in the sea — probably even better ones. You’re too young anyway.” You might as well have stabbed her in the heart.

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                Instead of doing that, try saying, “That is heartbreaking. You must really be hurting. If you want to talk, I’m here to listen.”

                Listen and communicate with compassion.

                11. Ask Open-Ended Questions

                Whenever I used to pick up my 16-year-old grandson from school, I’d make the mistake of asking, “How was school today?”

                You can probably guess the answer. It was always the same, “Good!” Just one lonely word.

                So, I decided on another approach: asking open-ended questions. The next time I picked him up, I asked, “So, what was the best part of your day?”

                It was impossible for my grandson to just reply, “Good.” He was forced to stop and think about some incidents that already happened. It doesn’t matter what they tell you; the key is to get them to talk. That’s how you learn what’s going on in their lives.

                This not only works with children but also with adults. For example, when you ask someone, “Do you like your job?”, they may answer yes or no. But if you say, “What do you like or dislike about your job?”, you’ll get a lot of information.

                Open-ended questions are the key to getting more information than you’ll know what to do with!

                Final Thoughts

                Being a good and responsible parent can be one of the most rewarding tasks in the world. It is not effortless, however. It takes a lot of work and patience.

                Implementing the above-mentioned 11 suggestions won’t guarantee a perfect family, but you will have a solid base to build and grow upon.

                Your child is a reflection of you. What do you wish them to reflect?

                Learn how to be a better parent and help produce a legacy of outstanding humans.

                More on Improving Your Parenting Skills

                Featured photo credit: Gabe Pierce via unsplash.com

                Reference

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