TRY THESE SIMPLE, EFFECTIVE WAYS TO CREATE AN INTENTIONAL HOLIDAY SEASON AS A FAMILY.
As December is upon us and the holiday spirit begins to emerge from within we can easily find ourselves at the end of the month feeling just the opposite; run down, tired, and overwhelmed. We pour our hearts into making the holidays great for our kids but the holidays are more than just the gifts, food, and fancy family gatherings. For children and for US life is most rewarding when we are connected, heard, and seen. We have some suggestions that may help all of your family feel deeply connected and fulfilled emotionally during the holidays.
- Create a holiday plan BEFORE you start marking the calendar with events and gatherings. What do you and your partner envision the holidays (now here is the key) to FEEL like? Similar to how you envisioned your birth and then created a birth plan. Create a holiday plan! What are the gatherings that you really in your heart want to attend? What fills your emotional and spiritual cups? Where do your children want to go? Make a list. What gatherings can you attend every other year as to not over schedule and to free up the month? The holidays aren’t just about being on the go. Some of that is fun but it’s also about just “being” together. Soaking up the spirit of love and watching those little faces light as they awe at the wonder of all the beauty that this month will bring.
Create traditions for just you, your partner, and your kids. It is so much fun to be on the other side of holidays with kids. The key is to keep it simple. There is no need to create a big event of it. Kids LOVE simplicity. They are built for it and thrive in it. A few ideas are decorating the tree together the weekend after Thanksgiving and then having a few presents wrapped up that they get to open that night, such as Christmas pajamas and an advent calendar. Then snuggle on the couch and enjoy the first Christmas movie of the season! So simple, yet they will LOVE it and will look forward to it every year.
The holidays aren’t just about being on the go. Some of that is fun but it’s also about just “being” together.
Involve the children in the kitchen, with gift wrapping, or with gift ideas! I know that when they are really little it can be challenging for us adults to let go of perfection but the kids will love it. Turn on some Christmas tunes and they can complete simple tasks such as stirring the eggs and adding the ingredients after you have measured them. They can hand you the tape or make the card labels with their scribbles or backwards letters. Take deep breaths and watch their self pride glisten as they get to participate. Keep a joyful cheer and allow them the freedom to be done if they want. It won’t be perfect but they are learning and filling their memory banks. Let go and let these moments fill your holiday heart.
- Connect in small, meaningful ways by checking in with your child while giving them your full attention. If you have a newborn baby than putting the baby in the carrier is a great way to keep the baby connected to you and to slow down the continued passing around of the baby that can happen during the holidays. Use a private room for milk to get the baby away from the stimulation and to have one on one time. Make eye contact with your kids while rubbing them on the back. When we have extra things on our minds we can often make our children feel invisible even though they are the very people you are doing everything for. Slow down and play with them for ten or fifteen minutes. If they are exhibiting “bad” behavior then take that as a sign that they feel disconnected from you or your partner. Connect before you correct and watch them make the switch. You will be surprised by what you hear when you simply ask, “what do you need?” If your child is younger and unable to communicate then rely on your parenting intuition. Take a time out with them and show them they are a priority to you.
- Practice compassion with your littles this holiday with whatever they are feeling. They are our hearts walking outside of our bodies. To see them have a hard time can spark helplessness and sometimes even anger within us but they are children with a plethora of emotions and experiences just like us. They are children and should be allowed to be childish. It is up to us to show them what gratitude looks like, manners, and appreciation. It’s our turn as the adults to have the gentle conversations about how much time, thought, and energy went into the meal, the gift, the event, the whatever it is. It’s also important to ALLOW our children to feel what they are feeling and to remind ourselves that they might be little but they are human just as we are. Their feelings matter and need validation just as ours. You see, the holidays can bring up so many beautiful opportunities to teach and for us as parents to learn. We are ALL doing the best we can with what we know so be gentle to each other and with yourself. Create a mantra that you can say to yourself on repeat to switch your feelings and mindset. A mantra like, “Everything is okay” or “I am enough” or “Surrender” or “Breath”. Ask yourself, “what do I need right now?”
- Self Care for all is really important for maintaining happiness and health during the holidays. Ensuring everyone’s basic needs are met will go a long way to creating a balanced holiday season. If you have a newborn baby than remember that what YOU FEEL the baby needs is all that matters. Use your intuition and follow the baby’s lead. For older children it’s helpful to keep EVERYONES bedtime routine (ahmmmm….. that means you too mom and dad) as much as possible. If you know you will arrive home later than pack the kids’ pj’s and tooth brushes and get them ready before you leave the gathering. It really makes it so much easier to just plop them into bed when you get home. Limit the sweets to ensure a good night’s sleep (ahmmm… that means you too mom and dad) and encourage everyone to stay well hydrated. The holiday melt downs for kids and stress for parents can happen just because our basic needs aren’t being met fully. It’s okay to let go here and there for everyone but be intentional about when and where you will allow the late bed times and a few more goodies than usual. Self care includes you too and it’s important you follow the same guidelines that you intend to do for your children. We all know what makes us feel good in our minds and bodies. Try to gravitate towards those things during the month and you will feel energized for the holidays.
- Communicate openly with your family and ask the same of them over the holidays. Create an authentic holiday through communication by letting your kids know what you need and want from them and then invite them in to do the same. For example; as a family create a daily plan before you go to the gathering so everyone feels filled by the event or day. Talk with your spouse ahead of time and clearly communicate your expectations of your kids. What can the kids have a say in. For example; the food item that you are bringing or the gift item for the bingo game. Then discuss with them what you and your spouse expect of them and ask them to communicate back to you what was talked about. Make it light and fun by adding your own family inside jokes in and use nicknames. Ask them what they are looking forward to in regards to the day or event. Create a feeling of inclusion with the kids. So often we can drag them along for the ride without realizing that they have had no say in the event. This is also a great way to connect before the fun chaos of the day ensues. Let them know that you are there if they need you. Communication is the key to kids feeling included, give them confidence, and make them feel as though they have a say in their own life.
Creating an intentional holiday season is worth the effort and can make the biggest difference in family connection and inclusion over the holidays. Children often remember how they felt and how they were loved. So be intentional with your holiday season and have a holiday family meeting and create a plan. Then just like with birth take that plan moment by moment and step by step. Set the intention but not the expectation. Let it unfold naturally and sink into whatever presents itself. We unfortunately can’t doula you through the holidays but we think if you try to work towards our above suggestions you will find yourself loving the entire experience and whatever it will bring. We wish you and your family many blessings this holiday season.