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10 important things to tell children this holiday season

10 important things to tell children this holiday season

It’s so easy to get swept up in the indulgent excesses of the holiday season. We work hard and experience highs and lows all year. We have the chance to reconcile and put things into perspective at its completion.

We find ourselves immersed in our own traditions, while at the same time making new ones with our families and friends and although continuing the customs we are used to is valuable, minor adjustments can be made to not only make them more meaningful, but also to guide children in understanding how we can use the holiday season to become better people.

Here are 10 important things to tell children this holiday season.

1. Let’s understand the different ways people celebrate

The festive season is an exciting time for children. Their understanding of it is simple. They know they will be on holidays from school, they will get presents and they will spend time celebrating with family and friends. Anything beyond that is unimportant to them. They are only aware of their limited experiences. The festive season is an opportunity for us to introduce them to knowledge outside of our own cultural saturation. We can bring to their attention the many ways that people all over the world celebrate the festive season, including multicultural holidays and those from different faiths.

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2. Let’s acknowledge that some don’t or can’t celebrate

As children grow up their scope of awareness is only as wide as what we expose them to. Young children only consider what happens in their own family and friendship circles. Older children will start to understand that there is diversity of experience and opportunity within their own communities, their nation and worldwide. We should use this time to help them think about people that don’t celebrate at the end of the year for whatever reason. They may not want to, it may not be their tradition. Some people can’t afford to or are living in a part of the world that makes it impossible to.

With sensitivity and age appropriate language and ideas, we can start to show children that they are not the center of the universe and although their happiness is our primary concern, for some people, it is not a festive season at all and our children should develop this awareness. There are excellent ways to start a conversation with children about both war and poverty and we shouldn’t shy away from these topics when the opportunity presents itself.

3. Let’s make things

With the necessary sensitive stuff addressed, we can indulge in encouraging children to be creative and productive. The festive season provides endless inspiration to make things. From decorations, presents, cards, table settings, food and desserts, costumes and performances; children can be shown ways to avoid participating in the merchandise overload that floods our world at this time. Not only are there millions of ideas and step by step guides on the internet to try during the holidays, materials are abundant and available.

Children can make things from craft supplies, household items or re-purposed and recycled things they already own. They love being shown how to deconstruct something and make a new thing from it. Children love to dress up and perform and it does wonders for their confidence and self esteem. When children are encouraged to create they not only learn to be thrifty and artistic, they also make memories and that is priceless.

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4. Let’s give stuff away

One of the central aspects of the holiday season is the giving of gifts. Aside from the obligatory presents that we show children to buy for family and friends, this time is a chance to explain to children the true meaning of giving. It is a good time to declutter. This is not only a necessary and useful habit to get children into, it exposes them to the notion of recycling and being generous. We can get them to give away toys and clothes they have outgrown to those less fortunate.

Throughout the year it is a good way to show children how to care for things so that they can be passed on and to educate them about valuing things instead of treating things as disposable. We can also introduce them to charity and making donations. Perhaps they can put aside a little bit of their pocket money or cash gifts to contribute something to a cause they care about like animal welfare or underprivileged or sick children. Something they can relate to.

5. Let’s ask for the right things

Traditionally children are compelled to make lists and think about what they want to receive as gifts. We are certainly bombarded by the promotion of goods marketed directly at children. Children talk about what they wish for among themselves and we perpetuate those desires further to make shopping easier and to give them what they want.

Instead of filling our homes with more objects that provide instant gratification and are soon tossed aside to be replaced by the next fad, why not show children how to appreciate gifts of a less material nature. We can urge them to ask for experiences. How about tickets to a show, membership to a museum or zoo, a gift purchased in their name to an overseas charity, an outing or holiday, an adventure.

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6. Let’s eat well

Let’s face it, we all over indulge a little during the holidays. It’s time to simplify how we partake in feasting to celebrate this time. It’s a great opportunity to be examples to our children about how to make healthy and enjoyable choices. We can all afford to reduce the amount of sugar and salt we consume. We can think about how to access humanely sourced food and we can be aware of how we consume alcohol in front of children. We can also include them in the preparation of food and the cleaning up afterwards, regardless of their age or gender. It should be a time when everyone feels included and contributes.

7. Let’s spend time with loved ones

Family is one of the most important things in life whether they are blood relations or people we have chosen as our circle of kin. For children, feeling as though they belong to a group is paramount. The festive season is a time to put differences aside and promote getting together with the important people in our lives. We can include our children when we visit relatives and reconnect with people we have not seen throughout the year. This time of year is a good time to slow down. We get so busy during the year that we barely spend any quality time with our loved ones. The festive season is an opportunity to regroup; with parents, siblings, cousins, aunties and uncles, grandparents and close friends.

It’s nice to get everyone under one roof for one day, but getting everyone to be in the same place at the same time for a few days can truly center us and is worth a try. These days we can rent holiday houses, organize camping trips and even connect across continents online. Once we have touched base with our foundation and reunited with loved ones, then we can return to our busy lives. We can show our children who the important people in their lives are and why they matter.

8. Let’s be grateful

Being surrounded by loved ones and abundance this holiday season makes us the luckiest people in the world and we should point out to our children that we ought to be grateful. Making them aware of what they have and that it isn’t the situation for everyone helps us to build gratitude and empathy in children. It’s a chance to help them put things into perspective and really understand what matters. It isn’t about the objects we get as presents or all the gratification we get, but rather the love and security we experience.

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9. Let’s reflect on the year that has passed

The end of year festivities allow us to reflect on all that has happened throughout the year, whether it was positive or not. We should talk to children about their achievements and triumphs; the things that made them happy, things they learned or did for the first time. New places they visited and new friends they made. We should reminisce with them about the milestones they have reached and how they have grown and changed from the previous year.

We should also give them the courage and confidence to ponder the moments that made them sad, frightened, unhappy or confused. They need to feel safe to confront the negative experiences in their lives and together talk about what they have learned and gained from them. Reflection teaches children to contemplate their place in the world and their rights, obligations and privileges. It gives them perspective and builds trust and resilience.

10. Let’s look forward to the year ahead

The end of the year is a way for children to comprehend that as things come to an end, we make room for new beginnings. The festive season, above all else is about hope. It forces us to consider what has been and look forward to what is ahead. By learning to set goals and make plans, children discover how to put their minds to a task and determine what they will accomplish. It teaches them self determination, agency, independence and perseverance. It gives them permission and aptitude to take their lives in their own hands and own their destiny.

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Diane Koopman

Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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Published on November 12, 2020

How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

As you sit there, perhaps on a sofa, maybe a lounge chair, or while you’re sharing a meal at the table, you glance over to the pride and joy you are happy each day to call your child. They smile back, running around the table they learned to stand up using or kiss you on the cheek as they snatch your car keys for their first (or second, but what feels like hopefully the last) errand using your car. You watch as they take their plate from the table, ask if anyone needs anything on their way to the sink, and then finally meander towards the living room saying to you, “Bed fort after dinner?”

How respectful! How creative! Such initiative!

What you may not realize is that because we don’t often think about this in the day-to-day of parenting, your child’s strengths—the initiative, creativity, drive, passion, and introspective nature that turns other people off—are cultivated daily!

If you’ve never given thoughts to your child’s inherent strengths, that’s okay. As is all too common, you’re conditioned to only look at what they need to fix.[1]

Turns out, identifying, cultivating, and managing your child’s strengths isn’t very difficult. In fact, much of those three steps can occur during a visit to the park. Let’s discover simple and effective ways to highlight your child’s strengths.

Identifying Strengths

Now, I know what you may be thinking: between office meetings, Zoom sessions, laundry, and grocery shopping, when exactly do I have time to become a psychologist?

I get it. But really, identifying your child’s strengths is not difficult. In fact, a simple exercise usually suffices—participate in their play!

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Participate in Their Play

Play can take many forms and is usually defined as an activity that does not bring extrinsic value to be enjoyed—us adults typically refer to these activities as “hobbies.” Whether your child is two or thirteen, children are children, after all, and play is essential.

According to a report from the University of Utah, play is a way for children to practice “problem-solving, self-control, and learning how to share.”[2] Aren’t those powerful strengths that we should identify and cultivate in our supportive role of helping children thrive as adults?

When children engage in play, they naturally show how they lead, how they empathize with others, and how they work with others (or not) to solve problems. If you spend time being present with your children during play, you will be able to see how your child’s strengths manifest in the simplest of activities. Seeing your children play allows you to see how they make mistakes, too, which is a powerful indicator of their sense of self.

Allow (Supported) Mistakes—and Often!

Identifying your child’s strengths has nothing to do with demanding them to be perfect. Far from it, actually. Remember—you are guiding them to becoming a self-sufficient and nurturing adult, and there aren’t many of us out there that are perfect!

Highlighting moments when your child has made some mistakes and working through how to bounce back or fix that mistake can be wondrous when they are working towards understanding their effect on others, themselves, and the world.

Just like parents that tend to focus too much on the negative, children too often learn more from their mistakes than their successes. Catch your child softly during a mistake, and work through a plan to get themselves out of it. Your goal is not to fix their issue, of course, but to build within them the capacity to make a better choice next time.

When you take on this mindset of an engaging and present parent that is looking for ways to build your child’s strengths, you’ll be surprised at what you see them able to do.

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Some solid examples of inherent child strengths to look for include:

These are the soft skills that are being developed as young as preschool and even before. In today’s global workplace environment, ensuring that your child is developing in these (and other) areas will set them up for success.

Okay, great. You’ve watched your children at the park or tag along with your teenager to a volunteer event and notice how gracious they are. How do we keep that going?

As is normally the case, you’ll see that cultivating strengths is no more difficult than identifying them.

Cultivating Your Child’s Identified Strengths

Imagine this scenario: Thursday evening, and you’ve worked your fourth ten-hour day. Your partner is late getting home from work, and your three kids are all wanting different things for dinner that should have been made yesterday.

At the exact moment you’re about to snap from the pressure, your middle child says, “Hey, maybe we can all act like chefs tonight and make our own dinners? Might be fun!”

Um, yes, please?

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As you settle in bed later that evening and reflect on that exchange in the kitchen, you start to highlight other times that child—and, as you doze, your other children in their own ways—stepping up and leading. You know this cannot be by accident, so what’s going on here?

Provide Many At-Bats

Just because a child can take their plate to the sink doesn’t mean they are responsible enough with Grandma’s China set. But when you provide the “at-bats” for children to build capacity using their strengths, you see the road to them handling more difficult scenarios becoming less and less cluttered with obstacles.

There will come a day, and perhaps soon, that your child will be able to navigate that China with extreme grace. Today just ain’t that day, but with some work, it’ll come!

Providing opportunities for your child to build on their strengths is a great idea. Everyone likes to feel competent, and your child is no different! Setting up scaffolded opportunities for them to showcase their budding personalities decreases the stress and increases the chance that, next time, they will perform even better.

Teach Them to Trust but Verify

Good leaders don’t have all the answers. Neither should you and of course, we don’t expect our children to know everything. But we should build within them the capacity for understanding what they don’t know and figuring out ways to get the information they need to work through their situations.

You cannot always have the answers, either. So, what should you do?

Exposing them to the world of information that exists is a good start. Great, you’ve identified your child is empathetic, but must they assist and provide supportive care to everyone they encounter? Or should there be some healthy boundaries established?

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Working with your children to mold and curate these more nuanced approaches to their strengths will provide them with a good road map to use when they ultimately leave you and lead their own lives.

Turning Weaknesses Into Opportunities

While not exactly the elephant in the room, I can’t possibly write an article about child strengths without also addressing the fact that our children aren’t possibly capable of being good at everything.

Perhaps one of your most important roles as a parent is to decide what strengths your child has and to inspire them to cultivate those strengths using the tips and suggestions in this article. However, there will be a wide variety of opportunities for you to work through the challenges your child experiences.

I don’t want this to sound too harsh but the fact is, everyone has competencies on a spectrum: you can work, hustle, and grind to develop parts of your personality or skill set to whatever gain you set for yourself. Allowing children to operate with a mindset of progress, not perfection, will help their journey. You cannot be weak, after all, if you are constantly striving for improvement.

So, the next time you take your kiddo out to the park, attend a professional sporting event, or perhaps when you’re playing cards in the living room on a cold winter night, pay attention to how they maneuver around.

How are they asking for what they need? How are they offering support? How are they handling conflict? How are they bouncing back from missed opportunities or mess-ups?

In each of those moments—and many more—the opportunity to cultivate strength in your child is just around the corner!

More Tips on Developing Your Child’s Strengths

Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

Reference

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