In our blog post about gratitude, we recommended that we help kids keep a positive perspective. Yes, it’s an old trope: “Look at the bright side!” However, this bit of wisdom has become sage precisely because it is so true. Thankfully, it appears that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel with vaccines coming soon. Just the thought of the pandemic ending will hopefully lighten all our moods. But what about today? What about THIS holiday season? Is it ruined? Can we stay positive without feeling phony? That depends on us!
What makes the holidays magical? The music? The lights? The food? The presents? The parties and family gatherings? A better question might be, what HAS MADE the holidays magical in the past. This seems to be a more relevant question as we navigate a holiday season inexorably changed by our current situation. When we ask people for their favorite holiday memories, we inevitably hear something like, “My mother would…” Or “Dad always…” Or “My Grandma/pa made…” A colleague of ours waxed poetically about suiting up in winter clothing and playing outside with his parents. He said, “The laughter we shared and the time spent together left such a lasting impression on me, making the holiday magical. Instead of sending us outside on our own, they donned hats, gloves, and boots and frolicked in the snow with us, building snowmen, snow forts with a good old fashioned snowball fight.”
Perhaps we can’t do those things we’d like to do, like play in the snow, go to the mall, or go to the school’s holiday show, but it’s not those things specifically that create the magic. The holidays are magical for our children because they believe it is magical for us. We all celebrate, decorate, and participate in diverse ways. That’s why, as kids, it was so fun to see how our friends’ families decorated their tree or to taste their family’s special holiday treats. And even though their traditions were different, they were still magical. Which means it’s not a question of tinsel vs. garland, twinkle lights vs. steady-on lights, ham vs. turkey, open presents on the 24th vs. the 25th… Traditions are special because we are excited about them!
Try Not to Grump About How Things are Different This Year
One of the most important pieces of advice we can give you is to keep positive. Of course, we can’t sugar-coat everything; we do need to be honest with our kids in general. And we need to let ourselves off the hook when we do have our “moments.” However, please try to refrain from grumping about how it’s different this year. Not only does this not help kids see things from a positive perspective, but it can have a chilling effect on their sense of self. Remember that kids, especially younger kids, have that unfortunate ability to blame themselves for anything. We call this “magical thinking” and it is definitely not the kind of magic we desire.
A Positive Spin
This holiday season is different, there’s no disputing it. However, keep in mind that it’s very often the different things that stand out in our minds the most. How often have you heard people remember something like, “That year we played outside in our shorts and t-shirts because, instead of the usual snow, we had temperatures in the 80s.” Or, “That year the electricity went out and we had to eat cake and pie for dinner by candlelight.” Put a positive spin on the differences! Our kids are going to remember this holiday season and will be telling their kids and grandkids about it for the rest of their lives. How will they remember “COVID Christmas?”
Have fun with it!
Here Are Some Ideas on How to Make This Holiday Season Special for Your Kids
Lights and Decorations. Twinkle lights are something that makes the holidays so special. Pick up a few extra strands of lights and go crazy!
- Let the kids decorate their own rooms. Multiple kids? Have a room decorating contest!
- Dedicate a spare room to grossly overdoing the lights, like crazy blinking or chasing lights all over the walls, furniture, and ceiling.
- Put lights on a balcony or in a window that spells something. Let them change the word as often as they want. This is a great activity as it is harder than it sounds and is tactile.
Food. Holiday magic often revolves around food. However, without relatives popping by to enjoy them, it can seem a little sad. Well, spice things up! Depending on their ages, kids can help to varying degrees. Middle-school aged kids especially like the feeling of accomplishment when something they’ve cooked/baked feeds the family. Also, the sense of smell most powerfully provokes memories. Good smells make good memories!
- Look up recipes online or in your cookbooks and make something you’ve never made before. Better yet, get out that GIANT cookbook you own, have one of the kids close their eyes and open the book to a random page. Make whatever they picked.
- Find a recipe from when you were a kid that you haven’t had in a long time. Have the kids “help” you and tell them fun memories related to it as you cook/bake.
- Make something complicated that you’d normally never make.
- Make something international. Research traditional Christmas dishes from around the world and make some “interesting” meals together.
Music. Holiday classics tie the years together. To younger kids, these songs are new. To older kids, they are beginning to be special. Make some activities around holiday classics and remember to share positive memories connected to them.
- Have a Christmas Carol Karaoke night. Make it silly! Have them sing songs like a robot, with a foreign accent, or like a famous actor.
- Play them songs from the year you were born.
- Print out the lyrics from several classics and cut the lines apart. Invent a game. If the songs are unfamiliar, have them try to put the lines back together correctly. Or pick ten random lines and make a new song; be sure to sing it!
- Make up a song called COVID Christmas. Film them singing it so they can share with family and friends.
Movies. This one is easy. Everyone has a favorite Christmas movie classic. But maybe your kids haven’t seen yours. With the “magic” of the internet, you can rent/download tons of movies.
- Watch your all-time favorites, even the corny ones, together.
- Watch the classic stop-motion/claymation cartoons from years gone by. Remember when Santa, guided by Rudolph, stops off at the Island of Misfit Toys?
- If your kids have a range of ages, let the older ones stay up even later than usual and watch a “scary” one like Gremlins or The Nightmare Before Christmas.
- Watch the original Grinch cartoon together. Everyone LOVES when the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes and breaks the x-ray screen. (He doesn’t find the strength of twelve Grinches, he finds the strength of ten Grinches… plus two!)
Games. Of course, board games and card games are fun holiday activities. But how about making up your own?
- Christmas Carol Charades. Print out and cut up two dozen, or so, famous Christmas Carols. Take turns acting out the song titles.
- Make a COVID Christmas Carol play. Film it and play it for family and friends.
- Play “In the Before Times.” Have adults take turns saying two true things they did as a kid at the holidays and one false thing. Have the kids guess which is the lie.
It’s All About Them (or is it?)
It’s a real Catch-22, isn’t it? We want the holidays to be magical for our kids, but they look to us to know what’s magical. Kids live in the moment and if we have that Christmas Spirit, they will too. No matter what you do, stay positive and have fun with it. Avoid saying things like, “Oh it’s too bad we can’t…” Or, “I wish we could…” Or, “Things will be better next year!”
Think of this holiday season as a palette cleanser. We can return to treasured family traditions next year. Remember that, going forward, each future Christmas will be forever compared to COVID Christmas. Even more importantly, remember that YOU are the magic ingredient. Sharing, laughing, singing, playing, celebrating… It’s magical because you do it together!
A Special Holiday Message from Our Team
What Makes the Holidays Magical for Dr. John
As a child what made holidays magical for me was when my parents would play with us outside, especially after a huge snowfall. The laughter we shared and the time spent together left such a lasting impression on me, making the holiday magical. Instead of sending us outside on our own, they donned hats, gloves, and boots and frolicked in the snow with us, building snowmen, snow forts with a good old-fashioned snowball fight; oh the weather outside was delightful!
How Dr. Jodie Makes the Holidays Magical
An enduring symbol of this season is the Christmas tree. Ubiquitous yet unique, trees, like people, come in all varieties. My favorite one, though, is the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Always seeming to do the wrong thing, our hapless hero chooses the small, feeble tree from a lot full of colorful, vibrant varieties. Even though he is roundly scolded at first, the Peanuts gang comes together, gives the tree some love and attention, and transforms the tree into a beautiful focal point for their Christmas song.
2020 is like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Not much to look at and feeble compared to colorful, vibrant Christmases past. Yet, we can all gather around at the end of this year and still make some magic. With no Christmas parties, concerts, or recitals to attend, we have more time to spend making different kinds of memories with our kids this year. Maybe it’s decorating your own family’s tree with homemade ornaments or baking cookies and delivering them to your neighbor’s porches. Maybe it’s singing carols, driving around to see the beautiful lights, or watching Christmas movies. There are ways to still make this season magical despite the loss we feel and the social distance we experience.
Just like Chuck’s tree, we can gather around and make Christmas 2020 feel special despite its feebleness. That tree had potential to become more than what it seemed and so can Christmas of 2020.
HAPPÉ is a state-of-the-art program that creates a healthy and positive outlook on life and teaches children to manage their emotions. The HAPPÉ program aims to teach children to take control of life’s unscripted side and their emotions independently, as well as live positively. Fun micro-lessons and challenges are sent to your phone or email weekly.
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