The holiday season can be even more fun for families when parents consciously work to lessen stress and focus themselves and their children on building loving relationships. Here are just a few ways to make December merry and bright:

  • Embrace family rituals. Family rituals are emotionally meaningful and convey the message, “This is who we are; this is what it means to be part of this family” (Fiese 2002). Rituals — such as dedicating a day to prepare your family’s favorite meal — foster a sense of belonging and identity. We invite you to learn more about the importance of family rituals here.
  • Consider a few things before taking your young child shopping. The key to enjoying a shopping excursion is to be a proactive parent, not a reactive one. Ask yourself, “Does he consistently show the knowledge, skills, judgment and self-control to behave in the market?” If he doesn’t, then taking him to the store is a setup for failure. Leave him with your partner, shop while he is at school, or get a babysitter. After all, advertisers understand that if you want to sell a product, you must catch the eye of the consumer. Keen marketing minds have created an environment that encourages impulse buying — especially during the holidays. These are not the places for children who are easily overstimulated and demanding.
  • Seek calm. Parents are often stressed around the holidays. Add to this an overly aroused child, and it is not a pretty scene. For holidays in general, it is best to keep gifts to a minimum. Ask family and friends to tone it down and to help you keep the celebration simple and low-key. Base what you do on what you think your child can handle — and create family observances that are appropriate for their emotional needs. Learn more about how to be a calm parent here.
  • Communicate to deepen relationships. The best gifts we give are often just our time and attention. You can learn more about ways to strengthen your communication with your child here.
    • Focus on the positive by acknowledging your child’s unique talents and strengths. “I love the way you sing!”
    • Offer encouragement. Expressing your confidence in his ability to succeed will help him have hope and greater self-confidence.
    • Take pleasure. Regardless of how small, express joy in your child’s accomplishments. Let your child know you enjoy her company. Develop common interests. Find a way to have fun together.