For most of us, the holidays are a season filled with a lot of hustle and bustle. If we can conquer our shopping list, decorate the house, get the cards in the mail and still find time to don a reindeer sweater and sing a carol or two, we’ve found success.
So, while I am wary of adding another item to your holiday to-do list, I do want to propose that we parents keep in mind that the holidays are one of the best times to teach kids lessons that they will use for life about how to be thankful, how to be generous, and how to be responsible for their actions in the world. The best part is that most of these teachings arise from the things that you’re doing anyway; you just need to be aware of them.
Give kids the best gift of all this year—self-awareness. Photo By Fotowerk/Courtesy Fotolia.
The underlying lesson for children is to realize that they are part of something bigger and that every action has a consequence, good or bad. Here are three ways to keep these goals in mind during the holidays:
1. Celebrate thankfulness at Thanksgiving.
So many families focus on turkey and pumpkin pie, but not nearly as many spend time actually talking about what they’re thankful for. Whether setting up an activity like a Gratitude Tree, or simply making a point to go around the table during dinner and giving thanks, make sure that you focus on this key aspect of the holiday. For younger kids, I suggest that parents get the ball rolling so children think past the extra gravy they’re happy about and start thinking deeper. Don’t get discouraged if you get answers that wouldn’t inspire a Dickens novel. It will take time, but they’ll get the idea eventually.
2. Invite your children to give.
Having talked about some of the things you’re thankful for, and things that make you happy, ask your kids to answer this question, “Can you think of anything you can do to make someone else happy?” In an effort to support their creativity, try to resist the urge to evaluate their ideas but simply encourage them to brainstorm as many as possible. Once you’ve gotten a good set, pick out a few that are actionable. Calling Grandma and singing her a song, shopping for groceries for a family who doesn’t have a nice meal, donating old blankets so someone else can have a warm bed, and donating toys to kids who don’t have as many are all wonderful outcomes. Try to find some activities where kids can witness the effects of their actions first hand, supporting their understanding of cause and effect. For more ideas, Dr. Robyn Silverman offers a good list on her blog.
3. Teach them to be kind to the environment through modeling.
At Green Kid Crafts, one of our goals is to use our craft kits to engage kids with nature and help develop their respect for the environment. We feel that it is not only imperative that the next generation understand the importance of caring for our planet, but that this creates a higher level of self-awareness and compassion in them for all things. During the holidays, there are plenty of ways to teach environmental awareness at home:
• Make gifts by upcycling found objects at home. You can find any number of ideas online; we’ve collected our favorites on our DIY Gifts and Gifts for Kids Pinterest boards. Think too about immaterial gifts, like doing something nice for someone, instead of giving them a physical gift.
• When you do buy gifts, look for options that are minimally packaged and produced by socially responsible companies. Green America is a great resource for this. Talk to your kids about these benefits and why they’re important to you.
• Think upcycling when it comes to decorations and wrapping paper to avoid introducing more things to the waste stream. You’ll save money, have some fun and end up with a more personal and special result. Brown paper bags, egg cartons, and other commonly found household items make amazing decorations. Check out some inspiration here. Your kids will have a blast making these projects with you, and you’ll be able to talk to them about why you’re doing it this way versus buying something in a store.
• Recycle. Recycle. Recycle. Don’t let the holidays throw off your family’s good habits!
Keep these themes in mind throughout the holiday season, making sure to talk to your kids about them at every opportunity. You’ll be amazed at how responsive they’ll be and what a positive effect it will have on your holiday!
What are your best holiday moments? Leave us a comment below.
Kristine Ford is part of team at Green Kid Crafts, a mom-owned company making fun, earth friendly craft kits for kids. Learn more about Green Kid Crafts and their craft kit subscription service at GreenKidCrafts.com.