The frenzy has begun. Holiday shopping season is officially upon us.
Parents are scrambling to discern their children’s wants and needs, scouring ads and collecting coupons, desperate to make certain our idea of a picture perfect Christmas comes to fruition. We want no child left behind; we’re counting gifts for equality, making sure we get just the right requested toy or gadget, and often adding to our debt in the process.
I have already seen some suggestions to frazzled, even unemployed parents, to just shop the multitude of second-hand sites. Solid advice… but for Christmas? Does second-hand match our fantasy of this one day of the year where we indulge our child’s every whim? Will they notice??
We had some pretty prolific Christmas mornings during my childhood. I look back through pictures and am astounded at how high the piles of presents were. I remember the excitement of finding the former void under the tree filled to the brim, the packages with my name, the special ones from Santa, the huge haul of toys I’d bring back to my room as the night drew to a close.
However, when I try to recall what gifts I actually received, I can only come up with a handful – from a real nutcracker prince (he was magical since I’d just watched the ballet), to modeling wax in a rainbow of colors.
The truth is, I remember more about the day than the toys – the excitement, the magic, the treats, the decorations…. and my parents being very busy.
From the psychological perspective of what your children actually need to thrive, there’s only one item on their wishlist: your presence. In their eyes, the best gift they will ever receive is YOU: to see them, hear them, and make certain they feel worthy of your time, attention, and love.
Presence means putting the phone down, dropping your to-do list, and fully engaging with them.
Here are 10 ways you can be present with your child this holiday season:
- Set an Intention: Before you even buy the first present, picture the kind of day or days you want your child to remember. What will they experience? How will they feel? How will you feel? What are you having fun doing? What does it look like? Really feel into it.
- Stay Home: Often, the holidays are the most time we spend with our children all year. While you want to visit with family as well, don’t cram visits and long road-trips into your time off if you don’t have much time to spare. Older family and relatives without children can often make the drive much more easily, so allow them to come to you. This time with your own child is precious.
- Trim the Menu: Food is for fuel, not connection. Start preparing snackable treats on the nights leading up to the holiday as a fun activity with your kids. When you visit the grocery store, purchase plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (pre-cut to save even more time) to have out throughout the day for kid and adult-friendly grazing. If you can, prepare any main meals and side dishes ahead of time so you can just pop them in the oven and then serve. You can even cater the whole meal or part of it, or ask guests to bring a dish! Your children want you, not a five course meal. Create new memories by having the kids help you prepare a cup of hot chocolate to enjoy around the fire and glowing tree at the end of the night.
- Play Games: Infants mostly just need to be held, but soon enough they will want to play games like all other kids. Find age-appropriate board and card games, sports or outdoor activities, even chase and hide-and-go-seek are super fun ways to connect with your kids. If there’s snow, go sledding or build a snowman.
- Plan Crafts: Even if you aren’t crafty, this is a great time to help your kids make something. You could do this leading up to the holiday so their creations turn into keepsake gifts for teachers, friends, and family. Check out Pinterest for loads of ideas!
- Do 25 Days of Books: Find used holiday or winter-themed books and wrap them all, then allow your children to open one a night and read it enthusiastically with them on the days leading up to Christmas.
- Cleanup Together: I’m not sure what it is with men and wrapping paper, but the second a gift is opened, the men in my family will try to put it in a big garbage bag. Stop and enjoy those fleeting moments of bliss, fully immersed in the joy of it with your child. Try to make a game out of cleaning up when all of the unwrapping is done and get the kids to help with a Wrapping Paper Round Up! If you’re really worried about losing toys in the brightly colored blizzard, create a cute box, basket, or bag for your child to stow their goodies in as they open.
- Be an Elf: Build toys soon after they are purchased to eliminate the day-of battle with all of the nylon ties and missing batteries. You could even carefully re-package and wrap them as well so it’s not a huge lingering task the night before. Set up a little wrapping center in your closet or wherever you are hiding the loot.
- Channel Your Inner Child: Get down on the floor and play with your child’s new toys with them. Squish that Play-Doh, rock that baby doll, build those blocks – gauge what your child is ready to let you play with and just PLAY. Be silly, use goofy voices, smile, and have FUN!
- Give Them the Greatest Gift of All: Make sure you take care of yourself first and foremost, so you are even able to be present with your kids. Whatever fills you up, do it. That could be drawing, nature walks, soaking in the tub, meditation, exercise, journaling, etc. I’m a new fan of waking up early – I do yoga, meditate, then journal and set an intention for the day every morning before the kids wake up. This is my time to fill my own cup so as the kids take, take, take all day long – I’m not feeling depleted. With your intention for the holidays in mind, cross off anything that isn’t truly serving you or allowing you to be present with your child.