How Smart Modern Parents Make The Holidays Special For Their Families
It doesn’t matter what your Modern Family looks like – traditional, divorced, same sex parents, single parent, or something totally different – the holidays are a great opportunity to put a pause on any challenges or unpleasantness of everyday life and, instead, focus on appreciating your wonderful family.
By their very nature, holidays create a consistent and predictable yearly tradition to bring families together. Daffnee Cohen writes in The Huffington Post that, “While both good and bad distractions present themselves every day, tradition [such as the holidays] does an excellent job of keeping us focused on the things that are truly important.”
So what matters to Modern Parents the most? Their families, of course! And this article is going to explain how Modern Parents use the magic of the holidays to practice the 3 important elements of Modern Parenting – autonomy, mastery, and relatedness – in order to build a close and special bond with their kids.
Autonomy: Inviting Your Child Into The Magic of Tradition
Every family needs holiday traditions. When I work with families in my private practice during the holidays, I stress the importance of creating special traditions that are unique to the individual family.
Even families that celebrate the holidays in multiple homes (such as in divorced families) can create – and consistently maintain – holiday rituals. For example, I worked with a divorced Dad several years ago who adamantly told me that it was impossible to have holiday traditions in his home because the children’s mother kept all of the old holiday decorations. I explained to him that holiday traditions aren’t just about decorations but also about repeatable rituals, good feelings, predictable recipes, and consistent family stories and memories.
Because I’ve worked with kids over a number of years, I know that they can handle (and enjoy) holiday traditions at different locations. Most of us have experience with participating in holiday traditions at different locations, whether at different parent’s homes, different grandparent’s homes, or even at our in-law’s homes We were able to adapt and enjoy these traditions, and so will our kids. I encouraged this newly divorced Dad to create new rituals, menus, stories – and yes, decorations – with his kids at his new house.
One great way of encouraging your child’s autonomy during the holidays is to include them in the creation of new traditions, or even in allowing them a voice in expanding on current traditions,
I’ve written many articles about the importance of autonomy – or the art of teaching your child to make good decisions – and why smart Modern Parents find everyday opportunities to allow their kids to practice making decisions. Holiday traditions provide a great way to include your child in the decision-making that happens during this time.
For example, let younger kids pick out the cookie recipes for the annual cookie exchange or the wrapping paper style for grandparent gifts. Some tweens can be asked to brainstorm the seating arrangements around one (or multiple) tables during the holiday meal. For older kids, challenge them to come up with gift ideas for extended family members that is based on a specific budget.
Remember, your child’s ideas don’t have to be perfect. This is a opportunity to teach life skills. Just focus on the process – not a perfect outcome.
Mastery: Highlighting Your Child’s Natural Talents
What better way to build your child’s confidence and self-esteem than by allowing their natural talents and strengths to shine through during the holidays.
Every child has individual natural strengths and talents, and the idea of a Mastery Mindset is that practicing these strengths and talents is a lifelong process. It’s not about being the best, or doing something until you reach a certain level and then you move one, it’s about participating in an activity that is enjoyable and challenging and slowly getting better at the activity over time.
The rewards for participating in the activity come from within – the reward is feeling proud of the achievement. Allowing your child to incorporate their natural talent into the holiday tradition encourages their Mastery skills.
For example, I had a client whose daughter loved to sing. When she was only 9, her parents allowed her to join the Church choir. That year, this shy little girl, sang in the very last row (her mother said she shrank back behind the taller kids out of nervousness – you could barely see her) during the Christmas choir concert. When I checked in with the family years later (when the child was about 16), her mother reported that her daughter slowly become better and better at singing, and her confidence in herself and grown over the years to the point that she had a solo in the current year’s Christmas choir concert.
What natural talent or ability does your child have that could be highlighted during this holiday? It could be something as big as my client’s singing ability, but it could also be something as small as being good at wrapping gifts. Whatever strength (or strengths – you don’t have to focus on only one!) you choose to highlight, remember that the goal is to allow your child to participate and gain that inner pride of doing something that they are good at and that they like.
Relatedness: Learning That Everyone Has An Important Role To Play In This World
I think it’s pretty obvious that the holidays provide a great excuse to spend time as a family and emphasizing relatedness skills during this time will go a long way increasing your child’s sense of empathy and decreasing their sense of entitlement.
Remember that the concept of relatedness involves helping your child understand that they have an important and valuable role to play within the family, their peer group, and within the larger world around them. When kids feel that they are uniquely important within these 3 groups, they tend to make smart decisions for themselves and act in ways that are less entitled and more empathetic.
In order to emphasize relatedness skills within the family, show your child that they are a valuable and loved family member this holiday season not through gift-giving, but by making sure they have an important role in family rituals and traditions. Do watch Christmas movies on the weekends? Make sure your child’s choice is included in the lineup.Does your child like to put the star on top of the Christmas tree? Make sure they know that Christmas doesn’t start until they’ve fastened the star to the tree.
Memories like these serve to build – and maintain – a strong parent-child bond.
In order to help your child understand their important role with their peer and the larger society, encourage them to use their natural gifts and talents to make other people happy during the holidays, For example, if your child likes to bake, encourage them to have their friends over for a cookie-baking day. If they are taking piano lessons, encourage them to play for the grandparents when they ce over for a visit.
The point here is to allow your child the experience of making other people happy and experiencing the feeling of internal pride that this brings. Our Modern Kids are all too often experiencing high levels of entitlement, and emphasizing relatedness skills is the antidote to this modern issue.
Take Home Message
The thing to remember here is to ensure that you’re not letting the holidays mindlessly slip by. The holiday season provides a great opportunity to make wonderful memories, and – if you’re smart – you can also emphasize some pretty important life skills.
We want our kids to be experts at some important life skills such as making good decisions, learning how to make friends with good people, learning to be empathetic to others so that they are experts with these skills by the time the are young adults and out of our protective nest.
Teaching these important life skills is a long process, and using the yearly rituals and traditions that come along with the holidays provides a great opportunity to not only bond with your child, but to continue to prepare them for their great future.
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