I say perfect timing to a story that was published in The Washington Post this week! I thought it was soooo timely and helpful that I wanted to share with you:
|Michael Hershon/For The Washington Post|
Holiday advice for families
By Janice D’Arcy/The Washington Post
Published: December 7, 2011
How many gifts is too many?
“Identify ways that you and your partner might combine each other’s gift ideas: Can you still buy at the toy store while also purchasing toys and clothing for a local needy family?” she said. She suggested involving children in the conversation, too, so they begin to understand the underlying reasons for giving gifts.
Be sensitive about Santa.
“As much as a preteen would maybe love to get negative attention [for spoiling it], you simply hug him and say, ‘I believe in everything good about the holidays, and Santa is part of that in our house. Especially for your little sister,’ ” Leahy said.
For families who celebrate Christmas without Santa, Leahy warned against asking a preschooler to keep the secret that there really isn’t a Santa. “It is a truism for all kids that if you look them in the eye and say, “Please, please don’t tell the kids in pre-K that there is no Santa,” that child will march right into school with an important announcement: “There is no Santa!”
Instead, she said, “concentrate on what you do believe in as a family and say things like: ‘Some families believe in Santa, some don’t. We really believe in giving back in this house. Can you help me make a list of people we can help this holiday?’ You will notice that there was no refutation in that sentence. You simply want to highlight what the family values are.”
Christmas and Hanukkah: A peaceful coexistence
“Parents can talk with their kids about common religious principles or themes. For example, both Christmas and Hanukkah tell the story of a miracle,” she said.
In terms of deciding which traditions to continue, she said it can be helpful for each parent to think about what they loved most about their childhood celebrations. “Is it the different kinds of cookies your mom baked in advance of Christmas? Playing the dreidel game? The scent of a Christmas tree? Latkes frying on the stove? Reading stories or singing songs with family?” The answers can provide a template for the idea of interfaith celebration for your family.
Keep family drama at bay with planning, flexibility.
“Spend some time thinking about your own expectations of what, if anything, needs to change now that you are bringing small kids into the holiday scenario. . . . Don’t abdicate the decision-making to your mother-in-law. The result might be a meal schedule that simply does not work for your child,” she said.
At the same time, make an effort to be flexible on less important issues. “Kids learn how to negotiate the world based on the behavior modeled by their parents,” Murphy said. “If the holidays mean arguments, conflict with in-laws or passive-aggression for the adults, guess what kids end up believing about holidays?”
When sharing custody, stick to a schedule.
Gross offered two possible schedules. In the first, parents alternate each year, from 6 p.m. on the last day of the school year until 4 p.m. on Christmas Day and from 4 p.m. on Christmas Day until 6 p.m. on Jan. 1. In the second option, one parent has the children for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and the other parent has the children for all other holidays and school vacations.
“Children also frequently feel like the separation of their parents is their fault,” Gross said. “It is important during the holidays to take time to talk to them about their feelings and reassure them.”
The key to well-mannered kids: Practice, practice.
Still, Hacala said, if the kids haven’t been training for months, you can try a few last-minute strategies. “If your dining style at home is informal, but you’re concerned about a party where more formal behavior and attire is expected, have a practice dinner at home beforehand.”
Get kids to say thanks and really mean it.
“Teach your child to say, ‘Thank you, Aunt Susan’ with a sincere and appreciative tone of voice, even if he wished that Elmo were in the gift box rather than a sweater. With older kids and teens, remind them that facial expressions often speak louder than words. Regardless of age, teach your child to hand-write thank-you notes to show appreciation and gratitude; it is an admirable life-long habit.”
Hacala said children may be more likely to put pen to paper if parents explain the meaning of saying “thanks.” “It should be taught to kids that gratitude expresses appreciation for and acknowledgment of other people in our lives, which is why saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are so important, whether a person has opened a door for you or given you a gift. Doing so shows someone that you are not taking his or her gift, gesture or presence for granted.”