It’s that time of year when we seek to bring gifts of joy and good cheer to our family and friends.
Yet often we get so swept up in finding the just-right gifts in stores, that we forget about the real gifts of love surrounding us all the time. We can too easily lose sight of what really matters when we’re drowning in the to-dos of extra shopping, cooking, cleaning, and entertaining.
How do we truly experience “Joy to the World” when we’re ready to pull our hair out after hearing that song for the one millionth time, and it’s only the second week of December?
Here are a few friendly reminders on how to keep the spirit of the holiday season alive and well for you and your children.
Remember the Reason for the Season
Ask yourself “Why?” Stop and catch yourself – at the beginning of the month, the week, the day. “What am I doing? What choice am I making right now with my limited time/energy/money? And why? Why am I doing this?”
Remind yourself of the Reason for the Season. Whatever your particular creed or beliefs – it is a time for celebrating humankind with renewed love, light, and hope. It’s a time for being thankful for the gifts OF family and friends, not just FROM them.
Refocus on What’s Most Fun and Fulfilling
When you refocus your mind on what’s most important to you about this holiday season, then you can commit yourself to purposely putting those priorities into practice.
If you’re baking extra breads or cookies, is it a burdensome chore because you have to, you feel you should, or it’s just always been done that way? Or are you doing it because you want to, you choose to? Your frame of mind here goes a long way to defining how you and your children will experience this activity.
If you know your children really enjoy that tradition, and you’re looking forward to giving them that gift of love, and you love the warm, fresh smells that remind you fondly of holidays past, then go for it! Remind yourself this is why you’re doing it. You’ll appreciate the fun of making yummy treats as well as making lasting, loving memories for your own kids.
Reset Expectations (Repeat As Needed)
Clarify expectations and accept limitations. Know that if you make the choice for extra cookie baking, you won’t necessarily have time for all the holiday movies you were hoping to watch. Set realistic expectations that don’t include notions of perfection.
Be clear that this is a season for giving, sharing, and celebrating LOVE with one another, not just THINGS. And that means giving up some of our own wants to share in other people’s pleasures as well.
Rejoice – Realistically!
Make a list of your top 3 wishes for a fun, stress-less holiday. Have everyone in the family make their own list, with the clear understanding that you will do some of what each person wants, but not be able to do it all. Compare wish lists and agree to choose 1 or 2 from each person’s list. Schedule 1 or 2 time blocks each week for the month of December, when everyone agrees they’re going to do a designated family activity. Rotate who’s turn it is, and do something from that family member’s list.
Remind yourself and your children that gifts come in many different sizes and shapes. Play a game of mindfully appreciating and speaking about one gift that you received and one that you gave each day of the month. Gifts may come as material things, yes, including the things we take for granted – the clothes on our back, our daily food, a cup of coffee, some fresh cut flowers for the kitchen table, a gallon of gas for the car that took us to the Christmas Concert.
The best gifts often come in the form of sharing what we already have – belongings, compliments, time, activity, or service. Help your children open their eyes and hearts to this reality. Help them make conscious choices about what they’re grateful for and willing to give of themselves each day.
If you’re really into it, have your kids write one of these reflections on paper cut-out decorations – stars or bells or whatever, colored to desire, and hang daily on a little “Gratitude” or “Giving” tree.
Don’t over do it. Pick one thing and do it whole-heartedly. Enjoy the anticipatory excitement, the momentary experience, and the fond memories. Make mindful choices about what brings you and your children the greatest joy, and become fully engaged in just that. Here, now.
In so doing, you’ll receive the greatest gift of all.
Peter Montminy, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, mindfulness teacher, loving husband and dad. He invites you to join in an ongoing conversation that seeks to restore sanity to humanity – one child at a time. Join us at www.AMindfulVillage.com.