Sharing the Spirit of the Holidays

“The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.”—Pierre Corneille, French poet

It’s the time of year when many families’ calendars are chock-full of holiday celebrations. From Thanksgiving to Christmas to Hanukkah, ‘tis the season” for celebrating. It’s easy for parents get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but try to make an effort to pay special attention to how your kids and others around you are getting (or not getting) into the spirit. Be sensitive to those who are grieving or going through major changes. No matter what people think of the upcoming holidays, do small things that spread a bit of cheer.

Tips for . . .

Do What Makes You Happy this Holiday Season. Prepare for the holidays with the activities you and your family enjoy best. Some families love going to a holiday concert. Others enjoy making holiday goodies. Others enjoy making gifts to give. Do what suits you!

Be a Big Kid. Remember the things that you got you into the holiday spirit as a child. Was it a specific song? Or might there be an old, neglected tradition that you can resurrect or add a new twist to?

Ask your kids what they enjoy best about getting ready for (and celebrating) the holidays: Incorporate those things into your holiday planning. Get ideas for planning special occasions here.

Learn about other traditions around you. Are there other cultures or religions in your community that celebrate holidays in unique ways? Does your child have a friend who celebrates a different holiday than he or she does? Extend your holiday cheer to families outside of your normal realm of contact.

Download Tips: What to Do when You Don’t Celebrate Christmas >

• Young children get into the holiday spirit more when they have predictable routines and get enough rest. Strive to maintain your everyday routines during the holiday season.

• Find small, meaningful ways that kids can do their own part for the upcoming holidays. Some families make sugar cookies and let young children decorate them any way they wish. Others create holiday traditions that children can take the lead, such as announcing that a dinner is ready.

• Too many adults get young kids overly wound up before the holidays. This can sometimes result in disappointment from overbuilt anticipation. Find ways to help your kids slow down and enjoy all the holiday season has to offer.

• Emphasize the giving aspect of the holidays. At this age, kids can become so engrossed in getting gifts that they miss out on giving to others.

• Help kids learn to manage responsibilities by breaking big holiday tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks. For holiday shopping, explain how you make a gift list, you shop for the items, you find boxes for the items, and then you wrap the items.

• Start a tradition where you make something with your child to give as a gift. For example, make homemade granola, a knitted or crocheted scarf , or treats for pets. has great ideas for homemade gift giving here.

• Children in this age group can get totally into the holiday spirit one year, refuse it the next, and then bounce back into the holiday spirit the year after that. These ups and downs are normal. Roll with them, and be compassionate to your kids going through these changes.

• Ask your kids which holiday preparations they enjoy best and do more of those preparations. For example, some kids love decorating. Others hate it. Some love finding gifts for others. Some completely avoid shopping.

• See if your child wants to include a friend in some of the holiday preparations. Often having a good friend involved can really put your child into the holiday spirit.

• For some older teenagers, just showing up for the holidays is a major undertaking. Some are more interested in preparing for the holidays with their friends (or just letting one of their parents do it all for them to enjoy). Be patient with older teenagers and enjoy their participation, even if it seems limited to you.

• Set boundaries about what you value in terms of celebrating the holidays. By this age, your teenagers have seen a wide range of adults acting in different ways to get into the spirit. If you’re concerned about underage drinking, say so.

• Although older teenagers may push you away, remember that they’re just exerting their independence. Older teenagers still need your support and involvement in their lives. Many older teenagers do enjoy holiday traditions, even if they may not show it.