Monday, January 25, 2016

Calming Down Christmas

     “Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat.
     Won’t you please put a penny in the old man’s hat?
     If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do.
     If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God Bless You!”

     Christmas is coming!  What could be happier than that? 
     The century old nursery rhyme turned Christmas carol is filled with anticipation and the thought that the spirit of Christmas is sharing. 

     I’ve known a few who face the season with dread.  They don’t like the pressure to do more, be more, get more, buy more. They don’t like the craziness and the self-centered nature of constantly asking children what they want to have magically appear under the tree.  Certainly, our society from Black Friday clear through the day-after sales gets a little crazed.  The ads exclaim that to be the “Best Christmas Ever” it needs to include diamond jewelry or a 52” flat screen.

     But it doesn’t need to be that way.  Christmas at your house can be what you make it.  No matter what the neighbors or the cousins all do. You can choose how your family will celebrate and if you enjoy it, your children will, too.  This season is actually a golden time to help your children think about others and find joy in sharing.

     Share. Take turns. Play well with others.
     Those are the Big Three social skills in the preschool world, because those are the traits that help them become happy, productive adults.  Sharing doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but teaching about sharing can’t start too young.

     Do you have a penny for the “old man’s” red Salvation Army kettle?  Let your children drop the coins in the kettle and take a minute to talk about how good it feels to know that the money will be used to buy food for people who are hungry and don’t have place to get a warm dinner.

     Teach your children to share their time.  December is a wonderful time to take your children to drop by older neighbors or aunts and uncles to take a cookie or a song.  Some preschool children relish running to the door to knock.  Some will hide behind mom’s legs and barely peek out.  It doesn’t matter, the value is the same if you graciously greet people and model happiness in thinking of others.  If it becomes a tradition that’s repeated, their comfort level grows and they become aware of other people in a wonderful way.  It’s especially valuable if the Christmas visit is followed up by a Valentine visit, and more. 

     Many people give and share at Christmas with community projects.  Choose one and include your children.  Let them have projects to earn the quarters that they give to the shoe drive, or pick out the food, coat or toy that will be donated. Children really do love to be helpers.

     Share enough that your children know you really do believe in it.  Kids see what you do and know what you value.  Parents are the ones who usually throw the fuel on the fire when it comes to children and excess.  It’s fun to be a hero and give your child the best, shiniest and grandest, ignoring the credit card bill that will come later.  And those 17 minutes of glory aren’t worth it, and create a monster that forever more must be fed. How do you keep up the pattern that this year must yet again be “the best Christmas ever”?

     Consider making it a tradition at your house that Santa brings each child one present and not everything in the catalog that a child wants.  And then Mom and Dad can give a present, too if they want.  But it calms down the notion that a child should ask for all the grand stuff in the world because Santa is magic and the stuff comes for free, after all.

     Sharing isn’t free.  It takes money and time, which are usually in short supply.  It takes a good attitude to really teach children about sharing so they want to do it again, and that can be a challenge as this season, too.  But helping your children learn to share is a gift that will bring them joy forever.

© Diane L. Mangum 2012