The holidays can be more stressful than fun. On top of our regular schedules, we have to find gifts for everyone, send out cards and packages, bake cookies, attend parties and pack for trips. Even a recession-proof household can feel the pressure of all these extra activities. When our children see expensive gifts on TV, we wonder how we can squeeze one more to into their bulging closet.
Here are ten ways to use the holidays to develop new skills and values and have more fun year round.
Give to people who can’t give back.
We aren’t designed to be receptacles, but conduits of what we’re receiving. When we are giving, we feel like we’re really living. Look around you. Is there an elderly neighbor who lost her spouse this year? Invite her to your home for dinner. Holidays are a lonely time for many, and the gift of your time means more than you can imagine. Caring Nannies is collecting new children’s jackets for Neighborhood Ministries in South Phoenix, one of the four charities that we donate $25 of your Family Application to. You can drop off a jacket at our office or one of our staff will gladly pick it up from your home.
Involve the children in giving
Children are naturally self-focused. We have 12 + years to help them be other focused. Let them do extra chores, earn money, and shop a 99 cent store to pick out a gift for a needy child in the community or a sibling. The key is to have them pick out a gift they would like or that is similar to what they have. Make it a family event and go out for donuts afterwards. Have them make a gift for grandparents. Check out this website for some easy craft ideas.
The best way to build character in kids is to volunteer. It seems like an oxymoron to give more time when you’re feeling so stretched for time just for the basics, but it gives you such a good feeling and nurtures the soul. Your church or synagogue may be volunteering at a soup kitchen, or you can go with another family. This reality check will soak in as kids serve food.
Traditionally, Moms do most of the holiday preparation, so ask Dad to pick up gifts, and the kids to help with holiday baking, wrapping, and decorating.
Ask relatives to agree to cut back
Some families ask for a donation to a college fund or a donation to an organization in a developing nation in the child’s name. Kiva enables you to make a loan to an entrepreneur across the globe for as little as $25. H2OProject gives water to a village in a developing country–two other charities we sponsor. If you want to exchange gifts, consider scaling back by drawing names and exchanging gifts with only one family member. Give only one gift per person. Play the White Elephant Game, and give a gift you want to get rid of, or gifts set at an agreed on price.
Our family enjoyed making gifts each year. We put on children’s character building story tapes, set up an assembly line, and painted, glued and wrapped home made crafts. The children also made Coupon Books for a free shoeshine, backrub, making dinner, washing dishes, going on a walk, or washing the car. Make your own wrapping paper with sheets of newsprint and potato stamps dipped in tempera paint.Kids can decorate place cards for holiday dinners. Offer your child’s teacher an afternoon of your time, or donate school supplies. Using your creativity makes for a more meaningful and memorable gift.
Create important family traditions
It doesn’t matter what you do, but do some family activities every year where you really connect with those you love. I always made a special pastry for Christmas morning. Together you can sing Christmas carols at a nursing home, attend services together or peel grapes for the holiday ambrosia. Consistency is the key—do the same things every year! My grown children still want to go to Grandma’s house to frost her cut out cookies and decorate them with sprinkles. Watch them create similar rituals with their children!
Lower the bar
From our childhood, we all have glorified expectations of what the holidays should be like. It can feel overwhelming to live up to those expectations. What will they remember 20 years from now? Probably not what gifts they received, but the feeling of closeness and those family rituals. So drive them to see the holiday lights in the neighborhood instead of shopping at the Mall. Go ice skating or ice blocking together. String popcorn on the tree. It is those intimate, warm moments that will make holidays to remember.
Getting organized lowers holiday stress, and is a valuable life skill that can spread to other areas of your life. Start today and work at it consistently for 15 minutes per day. Then relax and enjoy the holidays.
Here are two helpful websites: