Once the pumpkins roll out of the stores, The Holiday Season floods in. Beware of being drenched in depression by the ads that tell you what you “need” to do or buy. If this is one of your first holidays with a child, we want you to know that you have Choices to help you navigate the season’s ups and downs. Choosing to raise your child—especially if you’re doing it alone—requires a lot of support. That goes double during the emotion-packed holidays. So if your Christmas starts to turn a little blue, give us a call. In the meantime, here are some of our favorite ways to make the holidays memorable.
Start with Thanksgiving. Head off the advertising attack by being grateful for what you do have and for your needs that are already met. Write down everything you are thankful for. As you think of more things, keep adding to your Thanksgiving List.
What your child really needs for Christmas: love. Begin with gratitude and you’ll be better prepared to focus your holidays on the whole point of the gift-giving part of the season—love. Sure, a cute new outfit is sweet (until she outgrows it), and a new toy is fun (until it breaks). But gifts in themselves will not give your child the love she needs to feel secure. (See our posts on how to tell your child, “I love you” and “You can count on me”, and that you’ve set healthy limits for her.) So what can you do to keep sending those same messages of love amid the holiday tinsel and trappings?
Speak love in your child’s language. Dr. Gary Chapman, in his book The 5 Love Languages of Children, says we each have our favorite ways to give and receive love. He describes those “love languages” as:
- Words of Affirmation – A genuine compliment can make her day. . . or week.
- Acts of Service – She deeply appreciates the thoughtful things you do for her.
- Receiving Gifts – She feels loved when you give her something tangible.
- Quality Time – She just wants to be with you. A lot.
- Physical Touch – Hugs, horseplay, hand-holding, and even wrestling make her feel special.
What love language is your child best at understanding? She may be a tiny tot right now, but you have a front-row seat for watching her love language develop. Now’s your chance to experiment with all the languages to see which ones she responds to. (By the way, you have a love language, too. Try taking this quiz to learn about your own love language and/or your child’s at Dr. Chapman’s site.)
Focus on love to escape the price tag trap. If showing love is front and center, then what you don’t have or what you can’t do don’t have to get you down. Here are some ideas for low- or no-cost ways to spend the holidays showering love on your child, based on each of the love languages:
- Words of Affirmation: Write down 25 things that are special about your child. At the same time each day of December, read one of those things to your child, smiling as you do. Save the best one for Christmas Day. Later, put them together in a simple booklet or a slim photo album, and she has a keepsake. You can even add magazine pictures or photos of your child to help her “read” the notes herself. (Chances are good she’ll ask you to read these love notes over and over!)
- Acts of Service: When you do something your child needs, add a little holiday flair. Find some decorated bandages to stick on her “owies”; sing a familiar Christmas song with her name inserted while you dress her; take her strolling by homes sparkling with Christmas lights.
- Receiving Gifts: Leave cash at home when you shop at Choices’ Baby Buck Boutique, using the Baby Bucks you earn by taking our parenting lessons. Our generous donors keep bringing new items all the time! Or plan ahead to make some gifts inexpensively. Here are two great sites for ideas, one for kids’ gifts, and another for the rest of the family.
- Quality Time: Set aside a special time—call it your “Christmas Cuddling Time,” or your “Holiday Huddle Time”—to spend just with your child. Some families like to have special books (gleaned from thrift stores or library sales) which they read together only at the holidays. You can go so far as to unwrap a different book to open and read each day.
- Physical Touch: If she thrives on hugs, cuddling, or rough-housing, think how simple your holiday “shopping” has become! For example, check out these fingerplay games you two can do together. You can introduce a new one each week of the holiday season. Make time to let her soak up love from your touch.
So keep your dear little one from getting lost in The Holiday Shuffle by planning fun ways to say “I love you.” You’ll find you are less stressed about the things you don’t have or can’t do, and more deeply satisfied with who you and your child are.
What are some ways you have found to make the holidays special for you and your child? Share your tips and ideas here.