Sometimes You’ve Gotta Let Your Kid Play Hooky…

A mom recently told us that when she was a kid, her dad would help her “play hooky.”

Shocking, right?

It’s actually a great example of a father who created a memorable tradition and bonded with his daughter during the holiday season …

See … her dad used to excuse her from school for a day right before winter break and take her shopping. Sure, they got some holiday shopping done, but more than that … it was a day to bond.

She felt like she was getting a rare and special treat, and because her dad was “in on it,” she felt particularly close to him on that day.

(Just to be clear, we don’t recommend helping your child play hooky all the time, but some experiences and traditions are worth it. It’s also a good idea to check with the school to coordinate with what’s going on there.)

Dad, are you looking for unique opportunities to bond with your kids this season? If you take a look, you’ll see that they are all around you.

Traditions—whatever they are—help create anticipation and memories that last a lifetime. Your family is unique, and traditions allow you to express your common bond as a family during the holidays.

“Traditions” don’t mean television programs or the family’s annual Xbox 360 challenge. Rather, this is about building traditions that encourage discussion and togetherness. You may already have some great traditions that work for your family, or maybe you’re looking for a few more to add. The point is that it’s your job to lead the way.

Here are our 10 Action Points for creating lasting family traditions this holiday season. Keep in mind, every family is different, so these are just a few ideas:

1. Start by thinking about the traditions from your youth, and ask your spouse to do the same thing. Then discuss those that you want to continue, and others you’d like to invent for your own family. Who said you have to have turkey or ham? One family we know splurges with the same exotic shrimp dish every Christmas. That’s their tradition. Another has Italian beef.

2. How about a cookie party where each member of the entire family bakes one kind of cookie? From this, you can make plates of cookies and distribute to neighbors, the postman, whomever …

3. In one family, Uncle Tim leads all the cousins on a nature hike through the woods before Christmas dinner.

4. Another family—with older kids—volunteer at the local soup kitchen during the holidays.

5. Read a holiday story or a passage from the Bible. We know many families who read Luke chapter two before opening presents. Another family listens to Peter and the Wolf. Another 65-year-old mom of adult daughters reads them The Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve, even if she has to do it over the phone.

6. If emphasizing your faith is important part of your holidays, attend a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. Candlelight services can make a big impression on youngsters who are already caught up in the spirit of Christmas. In the midst of the gifts, the food, the decorating, and all the other activities, make sure your family also celebrates and worships the reason for the season. (Of course, if you’re of a different faith, find appropriate ways to bring that emphasis to your time together.)

7. Save all the holiday cards you receive—unopened—until Christmas Eve. Then, with everybody gathered round, open the cards, read them one by one, talk about how you know that family, and thank God for blessing you with such great friends.

8. Buy a “family ornament” every year. Choose a tree ornament that symbolizes the most significant family event this past year. Maybe it will be a little house (if you moved), or a little dog (if you got a new pet), or a symbol for one of your children’s accomplishments. Write the year on the back, and in years to come, you can watch your family history unfold year by year as you decorate the tree.

9. Give each child his or her own ornament each year. It may be hard to imagine, but just about the time the tree branches really start to droop, the kids will marry and take their ornaments with them for their own tree, and start the tradition again with their own children.

10. Make videos with everybody talking about the highlights of the past year—even if you have a baby who can only make gurgles and squeals. As your children grow, and then when your family expands to include spouses and even grandchildren, just think how valuable those videos will become!

Sometimes these holiday traditions can seem routine; you may not realize how important they are to your kids. They may not even realize it. But as the years go by and the children leave home … it just won’t be Christmas without those traditions.

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Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.