It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. ~Dr. Seuss (from How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
Can your kids remember what they got under the tree last year? Probably not! It’s the time of year when kids are making their gift lists and checking them twice, but it’s been said over and over that the very best gifts don’t come in a box…they come from the heart. Make it a family tradition each year to focus on these gifts of the heart, and you’ll help create not only memories to last a lifetime, but also lay a solid foundation for generations to come.
Families come in all shapes, sizes and types: Two-parent homes, grandparents raising children, single-parent homes and more. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa—or nothing at all—here are the 5 greatest gifts any type of family can give a child this holiday season.
Let’s face it—our lives are busy, and if we’re not careful we allow them to get even busier around the holidays! Make a conscious effort to S.L.O.W down a little and give more time to the most important thing in life: your child. What can this look like during the holidays?
- Make dinner at home and eat it around the table together every day for a week. Let your child help decide the menu and spend time assisting you in preparing the meals too! The time spent together is priceless.
- Eliminate electronic distractions at mealtimes so that real conversation can take place. If necessary, put cell phones in a basket before sitting down to eat.
- Ask your small child what’s on their mind when you tuck them into bed at night. They’ll have sweeter dreams knowing you cared enough to ask about their life and you’ll also be establishing a closer relationship.
2. A Family Gift of GIVING
It’s natural for a child to focus on GETTING, but you can help them become less self-centered and more empathetic of others by helping them learn the joys of GIVING. What can this look like during the holidays?
- Be someone’s ‘Secret Santa.’ Together, leave small, inexpensive gifts by someone’s door for a week. Your child will be delighted at the joy he’s giving to someone else, and it’s made even sweeter because it’s a secret.
- Give to those in need. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, someone else is struggling more. Have your child select one of their toys to give to someone else or donate a few cans of food to the food bank.
- Make something homemade for someone. It could be cookies or a hand-drawn card created with crayons. Your child will love giving something they’ve made by hand.
Experts agree that reading aloud is a gift for children that keeps on giving throughout their entire lives. It’s never too early to start, and even teens benefit from this activity. Parents who read out loud to their children build kids’ vocabulary, expand their background knowledge and create a lasting bond. The act of reading to a child also helps them associate books and learning with something positive, which helps them in school all year long (Gentry). What can this look like during the holidays?
- Visit the library and choose age-appropriate holiday-themed books to read together.
- Set aside a half-hour every day to read aloud. If you stick to the same time every day, you’re more likely not to forget.
- Don’t stop talking once the book is finished. Ask your child’s opinion about the book and let them ask questions too.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. ~Dr. Seuss (from How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
4. A Family Gift of FUN
It’s important not to get so caught up in the ‘must-do’s’ of the holidays that we forget to have fun with our kids. Sometimes you gotta let whatever it is you ‘have to do’ wait, seize the moment, and just let loose. What can this look like during the holidays?
- Did it just snow where you live? Get out there with your child and have a snowball fight!
- Make ‘fun’ a holiday tradition your child looks forward to every year. For example, if there’s snow, always go sledding on New Year’s Day.
- Play silly holiday songs while you’re running errands in the car and encourage your child to sing along with you.
5. A Family Gift of HERITAGE
One of the greatest gifts you can give a child is knowledge of where he or she came from and that they are an essential asset to the family group. A healthy family provides a secure environment for growth and learning, and children benefit from a sense of ‘we-ness’ (Alderfer). What can this look like during the holidays?
- Show old photographs of their ancestors who’ve passed on and tell them their stories, if you know them.
- Express their importance in your life and how they are a central part of your family. They need to hear this, and often.
- If you have any doubts about a child’s paternity, get those questions answered for their sake by doing a paternity test. Someday, if not now, they will want to know the truth and this knowledge can strengthen families. If it’s healthy, they can develop a fatherhood relationship, enjoy a new source of support, and create lifetime bonds.
Do you have ideas for the greatest gifts a family can give a child? Tell us in the comments!
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Alderfer, Charleen. “Roots and Wings.” Psych Central. Psych Central, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015. <http://psychcentral.com/lib/roots-and-wings/>.
Emmons, Sasha. “Best Christmas and Holiday Books for Kids.” Parenting. Meredith Corporation, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015. <http://www.parenting.com/gallery/best-christmas-books-kids>.
Gentry, J. Richard, PhD. “The Do’s and Don’ts for Family Reading.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 26 Oct. 2015. Web. 16 Dec. 2015. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/raising-readers-writers-and-spellers/201510/the-do-s-and-don-ts-family-reading>.
“Top Funny Christmas Songs – Top Humorous Christmas Songs.” Top Funny Christmas Songs – Top Humorous Christmas Songs. Music Outfitters, Inc., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015. <http://www.musicoutfitters.com/topsongs/top-funny-christmas-songs.htm>.