It’s hard to believe but yes, the holidays are here. Though you may still have Halloween candy laying around or perhaps leftover apple pie from Thanksgiving in your freezer, it is time to prep for the holiday season. Thinking about all that needs to be done in such a short period of time may get your heart racing and your head pounding, but don’t worry, tears during the holiday season, not this year!
In many homes, the responsibility of the planning typically falls unto the lap of one person. But, rest assured you don’t have to tackle this alone. Kids love to feel in charge and involving them in your planning will build their confidence, sense of competency, and management skills.
Find the right planning method for you and your family
You may be a “last minute” type of person, but planning ahead helps reduce stress and tears from everyone. Decide whether you prefer to use an electronic device or an old fashion paper organizer. These tools provide you with a daily reference for staying on track. Think of this as more than just a “To Do” list. You need a tool to record what you need to plan for, what to buy, your budget, who to buy for (don’t forget about that distant cousin who always shows up at the party), who to invite, food restrictions and more!
Try dividing all these areas into sections such as gifts, decorations, baking, entertainment, and guest list. Want to take it to the next level? Purchase a planning tool (e.g., calendar, agenda, etc.) for your child and help teach them how to use it. The benefits of teaching your kids organizational skills will transfer into other areas of their life.
Have a holiday family meeting
Choose a time when everyone is home and call for a “family meeting”. During the meeting, show your family all the things that need to get done and discuss where you need their help. Whether you decide to see who steps-up and volunteers or assign them roles, ultimately working as a team benefits you and teaches them some lifelong skills. Child friendly tasks can include helping with baking, wrapping, putting up decorations and placing stamps on envelopes. For your older child, give them the task of signing cards or creating and sending out e-invites and cards.
Share in the baking load
Too busy to bake? Have you ever considered being part of a cookie swap? A cookie swap is an easy, fun and festive way to involve your family and friends in celebrating the holiday season. The great thing about a cookie swap is that you can decide how big of an event it will be and it will leave you with enough cookies until the New Year! Decide on the date/time, the number of guests involved, and ask them to bring 4-6 dozen of their favourite cookies (with the recipes), and don’t forget about their own containers. If children are attending the event, set up a special cookie decorating area for them which will help keep their little fingers away from those yummy cookies and keep them happily entertained as they feel part of the occasion.
Do a pre-holiday household purge
Just before the holiday season arrives is a great time to clear out and do a household purge. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza or just take advantage of the Boxing Day sales, knowing that you will receive gifts from others and will be making some new purchases, will prompt you to make room for the new things. Go through clothes, toys and household items that you don’t use anymore. Donate, recycle or discard, so you can declutter and make room for new items. Get the kids involved. They can trade books, toys and games with family and friends or donate them to a charity or a family in need.
Keep some structure during the holidays
Kids need (and like) structure! Keeping our children involved in structured activities over the holidays is key to your peace of mind and theirs. Structure creates a sense of security, and helps to reduce potential behaviour concerns. This doesn’t mean that from the moment they rise until the moment they go to bed you need to have a detailed itinerary of what they need to do and who to do it with.
What it does mean is having a few planned activities or outings for those two weeks that they are off. Decide with your children possible activities and mark it on the family calendar. Check out what is going on in your community in terms of free events, or sign your children up for cooking classes. If you want to plan for a special arts and crafts activity, consider making a shopping list with your children, going to the store to purchase the items together and then coming home to begin creating. Having a few pre-planned activities will certainly help to reduce the “I’m bored” syndrome!
Plan for all the extra holiday driving
Most families know how difficult it can be for kids — and parents — on those long drives, even if it is to somewhere they are excited about going. Preparing an activity and snack bag for the ride will decrease that irritating question we all hear “Are we there yet?” The bag can include sketch books, comics, small toys, travel board games, relatively mess free snacks, water bottles, and if you must, hand held devices/electronics.
If you know you have a long drive ahead and its going to be a late night, don’t forget to pack their PJs, and small pillows and blankets for the car. If you are really prepared, throw in their toothbrush. Getting your kids ready for bed before you leave the party will save you a lot of frustrations and tears once you get home. You might even want to pack your PJs in case you end up staying the night.
Encourage kids to think about the value of money
Do you remember being a kid and using your own money to buy something you really wanted? How long did you have to save for that one toy? That experience not only brought you pleasure, it started to teach you about the value of money. This is a great time of year for your kids to use their own money to buy a gift for someone else. You might want to start by having your children pool their money to buy a gift for one person or buy a gift for one another. Set an agreed upon limit and take your child shopping so they are part of the whole process — including wrapping. This new experience creates financial literacy, while teaching them to think of others.
Model how to give back during the holidays
With all the excitement of the holidays and the anticipation of gifts, it is important to teach our children about giving back. Creating opportunities for your children to contribute in some specific way will develop a solid set of morals and values. Ask your children how they want to give back. Do they want to adopt a family over the holidays, donate money, purchase gifts for a toy drive, or volunteer at a food bank? Demonstrating a caring attitude strengthens your child’s character and is an opportunity to show how our actions can affect others.
Don’t forget to include holiday down time
During all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is important to schedule some much-needed down time as a family. Yes, this means placing it on the family calendar! Family time is an invitation to reconnect and have a conversation that is more than “How was your day?” “Good”. It is a chance to be present and listen to your children as you reflect on previous holidays and talk about your favorite traditions. This quality time reinforces positive messages by fostering healthy relationships.
So, roll up your sleeves, put on your planning hat, make yourself a cup of tea and please do yourself a favour, just finish that last piece of frozen apple pie!
This post was written in collaboration by Janet Arnold and Francine McLeod.
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