Family Time: All Your Child May Want for Christmas is You
“MOM!! Every light I look at is a snowman!!” was stridently proclaimed by my son as he burst through the door after a trip to the hardware store with Daddy. He was enthusiastically waving a pair of paper and plastic 3D glasses that make all lights look like snowmen. This over-the-top, unreserved exhilaration was quickly followed by “Can I try?!” and “I want to see snowmen be lights!” from my other children. I had to pull together an attempt at being excited about the snowman glasses as I was completely immersed in my stressed-out, exhausted, grown-up mindset. I was finishing loading the dishwasher, was dreading the stickiness and crumbs that I still needed to clean from the dining room table and floor, estimating how quickly I could throw kids into the bath, then after the kids are in bed, hopefully I’d finish folding the mountain of laundry I had so beautifully erected from a good 4 loads washed that day. Needless to say, stopping to look through these glasses was not something I desired to do at that moment.
Do you remember it, though? Remember how, as a child, there was pure excitement this time of year without having to try? It was sometimes uncontainable and squeal-worthy. If that feels like a distant memory you long for, you are not alone. I’m almost positive my children long for me to feel that too. Our children feel the excitement, but do some of our negative tones about the holidays bring the elf choir down a whole octave? How can we encourage excitement and, maybe even feel it ourselves?
Here are some ideas for intentional connection with your child this holiday season…
- Put some limits and boundaries on your schedule this December. When you are a kid, you dream about growing up and being able to do what you want, but then we grow up and let busy-ness rule our schedules. Give yourself some room in your schedule to give the indisputably unsurpassed gift of your focused time to your child. This WILL require some strong dedication and resoluteness in protecting this time. Consider leaving 3 nights a week for family time for the rest of the month. Try your best to embrace your inner child on these evenings (don’t worry I’m not thinking grand themes here, just sprinkle in some festive spirit).Monday could be “art night”…cut out snowflakes, make a gingerbread house, or paint santa hats. On Thursday you may look in the fridge and decide it’s “make-your-own pizza night”…let your child pick out their own toppings and throw on a Christmas movie while it bakes. You could end the week on Saturday with a “game night”…play tag, hide-and-seek, and even pin the nose on the reindeer if you’re feeling extra energized.
- Prioritize quality interactions with your child. This could be as simple as making a conscious effort to really be present on one of the family nights listed above. This could also look like committing to intentionally spending 1-on-1 time with your child daily the week leading up to Christmas. Use these moments to move a bit slower, make eye contact with your child as they speak, engage in positive praise, and have FUN! Let your child come up with the activity or you give them options. Keeping your phone in another room (if possible) is a simple way to let them know that they are the focus of this time.
- Consider writing notes of affirmation to your child. Perhaps you really are struggling to find time. A lot of the things we commit to are inherently good and it’s difficult to turn some down. Some of us are not even in a situation where we can turn down our commitments as they help our family thrive. That said, something that I know doesn’t take much time is writing down a positive trait about your child on a piece of paper. It could be a sentence of encouragement, an affirmation of a favorite quality, or even a picture placed on their bed with an “I love us” written next to it. Add a candy cane with the note and you’ve got a thoughtful holiday gift that will likely mean more to your child than you know.
You may be thinking that some of these suggestions are pretty simple, but that’s because they are! Your child does not need you to spend several hours planning how you will spend your time with them. They don’t even need you to spend any money to make them feel loved and valued. Your child, whether they know how to verbalize it or not, is craving you to engage in their world with them. And, this holiday season, you may just find that you were craving that as well.
Also, in case anyone was wondering…
After I finished the laundry mountain that night, I tried on the snowman glasses and let me just say, go get you a pair of those glasses. The sight was magical! I might have even let out a squeal of Christmas delight.
Until next time,
Parkside Behavioral Health Provider, proud Bernedoodle owner, and coffee connoisseur