Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I grew up in Egypt celebrating it every
year with my parents, godmother, close family and friends. One of my favorite holidays growing up I remember it not for the presents and toys but more for the people, food, activities and memories.
Whatever holiday or occasion you are celebrating, having family traditions is a wonderful way to create long lasting memories for yourself and children.Today, I’m sharing with you some of my fondest memories for the holidays that are in my family tradition.
Food is such a big part of most cultures and definitely a huge one in Egypt. For my family our tradition was making Christmas cookies with my Godmother. As a young child my role was to meticulously decorate every gingerbread man to make each one unique! As I got older I learned so much about making other holiday dishes and brought my own twist on some.
Today our family tradition in my little family is making Christmas cupcakes, also decorated with great detail. The best thing about cooking or baking is sitting at the table with everyone else and sharing.
Cooking and baking are fun ways to involve your little one. Kids really enjoy decorating cookies, pie toppings or helping out with peeling onions. Any simple task can help your little one feel like they have an important role.
Special Parent-Child Activity
Most of my Christmas activities were done with my godmother but I do have one special memory just for Christmas with my mom. Every year we would take the time and sit together and make stockings for every person who was joining us for Christmas dinner. We’d cut, sew and stick each one and finally fill them with all sorts of stocking goodies. Being a working mom it was a great treat to have my mom take the time and do this with me. For your family you can do any craft that you both enjoy; stockings, ornaments or cards. In the end the point is really about spending that special time together as a family.
This is not a custom I grew up with but I love this idea. My brother’s family send us a family picture with their Christmas card every year. It’s a great way to update family or friends that don’t live close. For me it’s great to see how my nieces and nephew are growing and changing over the years and feeling connected as a family.
Every year after Christmas my godmother takes the time to write thank-you letter to everyone. As a child I was always encouraged to join and write my own thank-yous and got my own thank-you notes stationery to help me out. This is one thing I’m still not good at but greatly cherish and value. It’s also a great way to teach children to be and show thankfulness after the holiday rush is over.
Those were some of my family traditions. What are yours?
Image courtesy of bplanet/Free Digital Photos
How do we get our kids to focus more on what they have instead of what they want? There’s so much available in stores, supermarkets and even most homes it can be a challenge at times to help children look beyond their little world of games and toys. Young children tend to be egocentric, which is a normal part of development. They usually start showing outward behavior of thankfulness or appreciation by the age of 3.
There are however a lot of things you can do to help your child start practicing gratitude in the early years. Here are a few of my favorites to get your started.
Make a Giving List
Sit with your little one and talk about the idea of making a giving list. For every item he’d like for Christmas have him think of something he can give. It can be something handmade, bought from his allowance, giving away one of his toys or clothes and even just helping someone out with something. For your young child keep it simple and help by offering choices and suggestions. For older kids give them time to be creative and think of things themselves if they’d like. Kids can surprise you. Talk about who would be happy with these gifts. Someone in the family, neighbors, friends or maybe look further beyond in your community to local shelters. Encourage your child by modeling and having the whole family join in.
Give Experiential Gifts
Both children and adults tend to focus on giving toys and other material gifts on most occasions. These are great and fun of course but kids tend to lose interest in toys pretty quick especially if they have too many options. Consider giving an experiential gift instead. It can be something simple like a Make a Volcano Kit, a nature magazine subscription or a fun outing with friends and family to the zoo. It can also be something more complex like going to camp, horseriding weekend camp or a family trip. According to psychologist Jeffrey Froh, a gratitude researcher, kids get to feel happy and fulfilled with these experiences because they feed their personal growth or their interest. Kids get to feel more appreciation and create more meaningful memories than just receiving a toy.
Visit those Less Fortunate
This may be a cliche but most of us even as adults have a tendency to take any privileges we have for granted will we come across those who are less fortunate. Children are the same, especially if their circle of friends come from similar economic backgrounds. Talk to your children about what they think they can do to help others in the community or even beyond. Maybe choose a few toys or clothes they don’t use anymore to pack for the local shelter. Take a trip to a child friendly shelter (if possible), children’s hospital, animal shelter or any other place of need. Don’t just make this a drop off but try to spend a couple of hours to volunteer. Read stories for children at the hospital or help groom the shelter pups. It’s all about having a real experience helping your child be a giving and empathetic person.
Talk about Receiving
Gratitude isn’t just about empathy or giving. It’s also about being thankful for what others have done. Instead of asking your child to just say “Thank-you” when she gets a gift talk about how nice it was for grandma to remember that she liked soccer and made the trip to the special sports store to get her the ball. Your child will start to realize there’s more to it than a gift she wants appearing magically. This way the Thank-you comes from the heart.
We don’t always get what we want in life and that can be very disappointing and hard to handle for young children. Gratitude is also about being OK when things don’t go as planned. This is a tough one even for grownups but it’s a good habit to model and practice. For young children it can be hard to grasp what they should be happy about when it rains and they don’t get to go play outside or if they get sick and can’t go on the school trip. These are perfect opportunities to help them think about the positive side; “If we hadn’t decided to play inside today we wouldn’t have gotten to spend such a fun time together making this puzzle that we’ve decided to frame”. Model this in situations when you yourself are disappointed that things didn’t go as planned as well. Children learn best when we practice what we preach ourselves.
Make Gratitude a Family Habit
Finally, gratitude isn’t something to focus on just during the holiday season or around birthdays. Although those are yearly hot spots, it’s a habit to practice year round. Simply have a gratitude conversation once a week during dinner where each member of the family talks about something they are thankful for.
For further reading on raising a thankful child. Read my article published in The Daily Crisp
Image courtesy of Claire Bloomfield/Free Digital Photos