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Family Activities
Deliver the Holiday Message

Holiday messages, such as joy, peace, health, love, sharing, togetherness, and gratitude, are abstract ideas for children to understand, and sometimes it can be difficult for them to connect these sentiments and actions that can express the holiday spirit. Often, these actions have to be modeled, or demonstrated, for young children to truly appreciate their meaning and importance. The holidays provide the perfect opportunity for delivering messages of gratitude and healthful habits. Here are some suggested activities that you can do with your child to bring these messages to life.

The Pleasure of Your Company
For those who lack support systems such as family and friends, the holidays can be a lonely time. Isolated individuals, particularly the elderly, treasure visits, even from people they do not know. Take your children with you to visit someone in need. Help them share songs, their artwork, or just casual conversation. Or include your children in a visit by a local group to a community nursing home For example, there may be a chapter of the organization Compassionate Kids in your community. Remember to take the time to model the act of caring and the gift of time so that your children understand that their presence and attention can cause someone else to smile.

Your Community  
Often, children feel good about themselves when they help others feel good. Teach your children the importance of contributing to the well-being of others by modeling compassion, kindness, and concern. Seek opportunities to volunteer in your community and help others who are less fortunate. Children can actively give back to your community by donating clothing or toys to a children’s shelter. Even if your children are too young to accompany you, explain what you are doing and how your actions are helping others. Make giving back a tradition.

Light the Lights!
Holiday lights in different forms are everywhere throughout the winter holiday season. Ask your community librarian to help you find books that will explain the history, tradition, and significance of celebrating with lights or candles during this time. Start a family tradition around the use of lights or candles, and write down what each family member thinks or feels about the lights. Have your child illustrate the story. Then, next year, have one family member read aloud the family story.

Gifts From the Heart
Encourage and work with your children to make creative gifts—holiday cards, notes, pictures, paintings, or baked goods. Young children can help you in the kitchen to make holiday cookies, cupcakes, and cakes as gifts for friends, neighbors, family, and teachers. Children who make gifts are much more apt to appreciate gifts made for them by someone else, for they will understand the effort and attention that goes into such a gift. Also, the practice of making special gifts helps children identify how gratitude makes us feel good. 

Thank You, Thank You!
Saying “Thank you” is a necessary part of a child’s good-manners portfolio. Acknowledging another person’s importance to you is another way to say thank you. Ask your children to think of people who helped them, played with them, taught them something, or in some way deserve a BIG thank you. Then, challenge your children to think of a creative way they could express their heartfelt gratitude during this holiday season. They could make a card with glitter or a holiday drawing, sing a song, make a phone call, or send a special e-mail or a photo.

Wishing everyone a wonderful and healthy holiday season!

Resources

National Child Traumatic Stress Network
Holiday Stress” helps people cope with grief, stress, and depression during the holiday season. Numerous resources are listed for educators, families, and mental health professionals.

Compassionate Kids a non-profit organization dedicated to helping teach children compassion towards the Earth, People, and Animals. Compassionate Kids has members all over the United States as well as many other countries. Local Chapters have compassion-oriented field trips and community service-related events.

Education.com
Get Kids Volunteering! Why and How to Make a Difference” identifies ways and programs established for parents to get very young volunteers involved.

PBSKids.org
Volunteering: How Can I Make A Difference?” provides simple ideas on how to include young children in volunteering during the holiday season.

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Updated on 4/5/2013