As Christmas rapidly approaches, there’s a lot to look forward to. Many of us remember holiday seasons growing up where the anticipation was almost unbearable, and all the food and lights and family traditions added to the sense of wonder.
Every family is unique, but don’t we all want our children to experience a similar kind of joy during the holidays?
Since this can also be a stressful time of year for families, we should be purposeful about helping our kids get the most out of the holidays. As fathers, we can do a lot to set a positive tone for our families, and our modeling is vital. We don’t want to emulate some people we see, who approach the holidays with reluctance or even dread because of traditional extended family gatherings that aren’t much fun, financial worries, conflicts with family members, or simply the busy-ness of life in December that can easily sap our physical or emotional resources. By maintaining a positive attitude and keeping our cool through all the events and activities, we can set a better example and help our children experience that childlike joy.
Here are three key ideas to keep in mind:
Your kids’ perspective is much different from yours. They aren’t thinking about the stresses and conflicts that we see — at least not nearly to the same degree. For them, there’s really no such thing as “in laws”; it’s just different sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. And they live more day-to-day, so they aren’t likely to worry about finances or busy schedules. Of course, if you’re overstressed, they will surely notice and be affected. You can help spare them from that by staying positive yourself.
It’s not about you. Sometimes the best remedy is simply a mental adjustment on your part — looking more toward serving and blessing others instead of seeking what you want. Make it your goal to find joy and fulfillment in facilitating activities that will bring everybody else Christmas joy. With extended family members, look for common ground and seek to better understand their perspective. That’s what dads do, and it’s a great way to express your commitment to your family.
Traditions should enhance the holidays, not add stress. As a family, re-evaluate which ones are truly worth the effort, and hold on to those. Carry them out with enthusiasm. Often, kids are a good measure for whether you should keep specific traditions. Will they notice or care if you don’t do a particular activity this year? If not — and if you and Mom have no strong ties to it — then maybe it’s something you can skip.
- Ask your children what new holiday tradition they’d like to start this year.
- As a family, choose one tradition that you will intentionally not do this year. (Then see if it comes back next year.)
- Share your heart about what Christmas means to you. Give your children thirty seconds or three minutes about the memories or the message that makes it special for you.
- Are some extended family gatherings potentially a bad influence on your children? Try suggesting positive activities to replace the current routine. Or limit your family’s time there so you can do something that fits more with your ideas about what the holidays should be.
- Are you a granddad? Brainstorm about ways you and Grandma can reduce the stress and expectations that your adult children are probably feeling right now.