The holidays are a wonderful time to hit pause on our regular lives and allow ourselves to be fully present with our children. Now is the perfect time to plan for an intentional holiday.
Having this awareness during the holiday season is a gift because you can consciously create a holiday season your children will remember. Yes, even during unsteady times there are meaningful ways we can celebrate with our children to make the holidays happy and memorable.
Start by asking yourself how you want your children to remember this holiday season. From there, create the environment and plan to make the most of love and joy for your family.
Feeling loved is the base of intentional parenting. We want our children to remember this love when they’re adults. It is the base of a healthy relationship. Connecting with our children equates to time with them without interruptions, even just for 15 minutes a day.
HOW TO CREATE AN INTENTIONAL HOLIDAY
If this year has felt more chaotic than usual, you can use the holiday season to pause and reconnect with your family. Here’s how to approach it mindfully.
START NEW FAMILY TRADITIONS
Family traditions are events we look forward to each year. The best part about family traditions is that you can always start new ones and keep them going throughout the years.
Here’s an example: I am Costa Rican, and my husband is American. In Latin America we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, but in the U.S. Christmas is generally celebrated on Christmas Day. Instead of choosing when to celebrate, we celebrate on both days.
On Christmas Eve we have dinner and Santa comes to our home, in person, to deliver their presents. The following day we go to my in-laws, and we open gifts from each other. We also decorate our home for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, and we get matching pajamas each year. This tradition is part of what makes Christmas special to our daughters.
Here are a few new traditions you could start this holiday season:
- Wrap gifts together. This might sound like a simple activity but when I was growing up this was something I loved to do with my mother. Never underestimate the power of the small things.
- Pick a date to decorate your home and stick to it every year.
- Make homemade holiday cards together.
- Have a family roundtable where everyone shares ideas on what gifts to give grandparents and extended family.
- Create an advent or holiday countdown calendar and update it each day together.
- Pick a new Christmas tree ornament together (online or in person).
- Drive around looking at lights while listening to holiday music. Music is powerful and to this day when I put on the Christmas carols I heard as a child, it brings me back to loving moments with my parents.
- Bake cookies together.
- Start a gratitude jar. During the month of December, place a jar where every family member must write something they’re grateful for. Make it a daily activity to write things we’re grateful for and on Christmas day you can read all these notes together.
The common theme in your intentional holiday traditions should be love, setting distractions aside and spending true quality time together.
INTENTIONALLY BRING MINDFULNESS INTO YOUR ROUTINE
The holiday season coincides with the end of a year and a new beginning. This is the perfect time to reflect on the last year and let go of anything that no longer serves you. We make a big deal out of this in our home because we are teaching our children that if there’s one thing they can control, it is how they react to things. We practice letting go of things we can’t control and also letting go of habits we don’t want to keep repeating.
We use the end of the year to talk about emotional issues that drag us down and that we want to leave in the past. Then we build a fire and share the highs and lows of the past year while we roast marshmallows. This activity gives me a great glimpse into my children’s minds.
Then we write down something we want to let go. Our little one draws a picture since she can’t write yet. Everyone does this in private, meaning what’s on the paper is for their eyes only. Then we throw the pieces of paper into the fire and watch them burn. This activity usually ends with our children cheering when the paper burns.
Even though this is a symbolic event, it gives us time to reflect on the year. You can also use this time to create family goals for the new year or craft a family mission statement. It gives us space to connect as a family and most importantly, it makes us realize we have the power to change the things we want to change.
GIVE BACK AS A FAMILY
‘Tis the season to spread some joy and teach our children how fulfilling it is to be kind, without the need for recognition. True kindness comes from the heart, and we want to take this time to connect with our hearts and do random acts of kindness.
Here are some ideas on how you can give back and spread kindness with your little ones:
- Leave an anonymous gift for someone in need. Drop the gift at their doorstep or mail a gift without a return address. This can show your child that kindness doesn’t require recognition.
- Volunteer in a homeless shelter – in person or by helping gather supplies and gifts needed for the holidays.
- Sponsor a child through Toys for Tots or your local Angel Tree. Let your child pick a gift for a child who is not as fortunate on Christmas.
- Model kindness. Our children watch our every move. If you spread kindness, you will raise kindness spreaders. I’ve always told people in public to have a great day. Now my 7-year-old does this, and it puts a smile on everyone’s face, including mine.
- Buy a meal for someone in need. The reality is that we live in a world where not everyone has their basic needs met. This might be a very sad thing for your child to realize, but it is important to talk about it.
- Shovel snow for neighbors (especially elderly neighbors). Your children will enjoy feeling purposeful.
- Smile at strangers. Sometimes we are so busy we go in and out of places without paying much attention to those around us. A smile from a stranger can help bring someone out of a bad mood, and it’s such a simple thing to do.
There are events in our lives that stick to our memories. These events stick because they have an emotional charge behind them. They might be events we repeat yearly, but they might be things specific to that season, year, or a specific moment.
With an intentional holiday, your child knows – now and when they look back years from now – that they were surrounded by love.
Here’s how to encourage these memories to last.
- Stay in the moment. Technology has made it so easy for us to be next to each other physically but in different worlds mentally. Practice self-awareness this holiday and bring yourself back to the present moment when you find yourself mentally, emotionally, or physically checked out.
- Seize the moment. Some of the best memories happen spur of the moment. Let yourself go and jump on the opportunity to do something fun with your kids when it arises. If you kids see a pile of snow and run straight into it, put your phone down and run after them. Let yourself be a kid again.
- Make love the priority: You would think that your children know how much you love them, but children sometimes get scared that we will stop loving them if they do something wrong. This is the time to show them the unconditional love you have for them.
The magic of an intentional holiday starts with you. Tap into your heart, feel the love, and spread it all around.