Monday, November 19, 2007

Surviving the Holidays - Tips for enhancing the memories.

Between the frenzy of school and holiday parties, shopping, cooking, and spending, sometimes the spirit of the season seems anything but happy. Stress, over-extended schedules, and concerns over how the money just seems to be flying out of the wallet can turn the season of joy to that of anxiety and hassle. But parents CAN turn the holidays into a time of family and cherished quality time. How? Here are eight ways to help families reconnect and enjoy the season.

1. Serve others

It's better to give than to receive, right? Then turn the saying into a true practice by volunteering TOGETHER as a family. Where? How? The options are endless. A best bet is to choose as a family. Here are some options to get the brainstorming started: Serving dinner at a homeless shelter, helping to sort and inventory items at a local food bank or clothing collection agency, or helping to groom and care for animals at a local shelter.

2. Emphasis hand-made gifts

Why would anyone want a homemade gift when money can buy the latest and greatest on the market? Parents, if your child thinks like this, then this is a value that really should be stressed this season. The holidays are the time to celebrate families and to show love and appreciation to those they love, and not just for the gifts. And what better gesture than a gift made by from hands and heart? Gifts can be as simple as a cherished handprint, a scrapbook, or a service such as housecleaning.

3. Help Kids Learn About Dollars and Sense

Children can start learning about the value of money at a young age, and a good time to teach about budgeting and finances is around the holidays. Letting children shop for an inexpensive gift is a great way to teach how far--or not--a buck will go. It's okay for parents to talk about how much things cost. Educate kids that spending is a choice, and that there is a difference between a "want" and "need."

4. The Gift of Time

Many parents trying to force holiday spirit on their family through movies, shopping, extra activities, and often with the result of overload. The best gift a parent can give is time! Kids love evenings by a fire with hot cocoa and reading holiday books, and may prefer a holiday video watched together as a family than waiting in line at a busy movie theatre. Family games, walks in the park, and even looking at holiday lights while listening to seasonal tunes are what memories are made of.

5. Making memories and establishing traditions

Does you family have a special holiday tradition? If not, add one, and enjoy how it adds to the sense of family tradition and togetherness. How about sharing memories during a special meal? Decorating the tree as a family? Opening one special gift with just your family that has special meaning? Starting a journal with contributions by each member? Have a family PJ night. Building traditions can add to the holiday joy and strengthen families.

6. Reflection and Goal Setting Made Easy

Regardless of the holidays on the calendar, families should embrace the end of the year and new year that lies ahead by setting a direction for the future. Family members can brainstorm together and develop common goals, or at least share personal goals and ask for members' support. Whether it is to eat together more often, to make healthier choices, to limit extracurricular activities, or to work smarter, share your dreams and focus for the new year.

7. Let There Be Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Stir up some fun in the kitchen this season for family togetherness. Make a gingerbread village each year, with each member crafting an individual cottage. Or, bake up sugar cookie cut-outs and use imagination with the decorations. Consider stringing popcorn and cranberries while enjoying some home-cooked soup and bread around the fire at the same time. Cooking together brings family members together, and is a great way to combine food, fellowship and fun!

8. Learning to say "Thank You" From The Heart

Kids don't just "know" how to be grateful. It's a taught behavior from parents and other adults. A child's natural tendency is to think selfishly, but parents should emphasize an equal amount of selflessness. While it's natural for children to possess a case of the "greeds" around the holidays, parents should use the season to teach manners, respect for elders, grace, giving, and gratitude.

I hope these ideas give you some ways to improve your holidays and make them more enjoyable and meaningful. Happy Holidays!

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