Photo credit: Paje Victoria
The holiday season is one of the best times to encourage family and community activities. If you're a parent, you're probably busy preparing seasonal treats and festivities for your family. If you're an educator, you're working on seasonal lesson plans and ensuring everyone has what they need over the school break. In this and coming posts, we'll be sharing tips and hints to help make your holiday season bright and beneficial for all. These are the good old days of the future, so let's get to making memories!
Let's take baby steps, and start at home. Here are three simple ways to begin to create that cozy, family fun that everyone will actually enjoy. (Hint: these are good ideas any time of year, not just the holidays we're all focused on right now!)
Do It Together
Whether it's decorating the house, prepping a meal, or just sitting around - activities are just better when done in good company. Tackling these tasks together has innumerable positive effects. First, it helps to rekindle (or build) bonds and relationships. We know that strong relationships are one of the best ways to support students when the going gets tough. Second, engaging more reticent family members helps everyone to feel a sense of ownership and pride over the completed project. This can seem like a pipe dream at times, but our subscribers have found that starting off with something like preparing a favorite recipe has magical powers of enticement for even the surliest of tweens and teens. Just the scent of goodies being prepared can waft around the house like an invisible lure. Last, but certainly not least, by empowering family members to participate, this labor becomes shared memories. Rather than one or two people shouldering the work, it gets spread out which reduces stress and increases enjoyment for everyone!
Get on the Same Side
Relationship counselors often suggest looking for ways to align yourself with your partner, to work towards goals as a team. This is sound advice for families as well. Often, especially as children mature, they begin to feel at odds with older generations and see parents and guardians as impediments to their idyllic lives. Take opportunities to align yourself with your children. Have a student who's super interested in a particular subject? Listen when they talk about it, and ask specific questions when you truly want to know the answer. Son's struggling with a concept? Offer to learn it with them. Daughter's trying out for a role in a school production? Run lines with her or watch other productions together. Sometimes something as simple as placing yourself in the audience with your child helps them remember that you're available for support.
A teacher at one of our subscribing schools described how she'd listen to stories with her son to help him improve his reading comprehension. She did NOT preview the stories or listen in advance of him, so that they learned together what was happening. This way, she could ask her son genuine questions in real time, and they could work through plot lines and character development together. Likely, this candid learning also encouraged her son to ask questions and not shy away from wondering aloud.
Avoid holiday burnout by setting discrete, manageable goals for the time allotted. Take a step back and consider the things that are most important and focus on those few things. If you're planning a family celebration, call a family meeting over a meal or snack and get everyone's input and buy-in. Encourage other family members to take ownership of projects and be open to doing things slightly differently. You never know - your tried and true recipe might be great, but someone else's idea may be just as good or better! Embrace the opportunity to try something new or start a new tradition. If there's anything that the past couple years have taught us, it's that being together (even if only in spirit or digitally), is what's most important - everything else is just pretty decoration.
Remember to take care of yourself, too! We can only help others when our own mental and physical health is addressed and supported. Click here for more ideas on this step zero.