Teaching kids the true meaning of the holiday season

Cathy Ford knows how important it is to ensure children understand what the holiday spirit really is. As headmaster of Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy “our students represent a very diverse religious community,” says Ford. “’We try and instill a sense of respect by honoring their own faith traditions as well as others. We believe the holidays are to be celebrated with faith, family and friends.”


Ford believes the most important lesson is to give to others, but that it should be a lifelong endeavor, not just a holiday tradition. “Giving to others is a process that has to last all year. Empowering children to be a part of something bigger than they are develops character. This sense of caring and giving isn’t something that should start during the holidays.”


At Holy Trinity, their Christmas Outreach projects begin at Thanksgiving with community baskets. Last year students delivered more than three tons of food and staples to 63 local families. The holidays “shouldn’t be about what you get, but what you give.” Leading up to Christmas, Holy Trinity students provide backpacks for the homeless containing blankets, sweatshirts, socks, toiletries and a hand knitted scarf made by a student; shoeboxes packed with items for children in Haiti and gifts for the children of migrant farmers in Fellsmere. “There’s nothing quite as good at Christmas as giving something to someone who has little or nothing,” says Ford who practices what she preaches.  For the past several years, in lieu of gifts to her staff, Ford has given a gift in their name. Last year she donated to build a well in Honduras, this year they will assist the students and faculty of Saints Sacraments School in Haiti. “Our children receive a great education and get into great colleges,” Ford says, “but, at the end of the day, if they’re not better people because of what we’ve taught them, we haven’t done our job.”


How to make the holidays have special meaning for your children:


– Some parents want to be sure their children get everything they want so there will be no tears.This is an unrealistic goal. Don’t get lost in the holiday hype

-Don’t try to please everyone. It’s the little things that children will remember, like time spent playing a board game or teaching you how to operate their toys.

-Children will model your behavior. If you bake for the homeless shelter (and they help) or if you visit people in the hospital, they will remember that, and these lessons will stick with them.

-Cook with your kids. Over time, develop a list of favorite holiday recipes and make them every year.

-Children can help wrap presents-and it doesn’t matter if they aren’t perfect. Wrapping creates a sense of excitement and is a good time to talk to one another.

-Making gifts is a good way to give kids a deeper sense of the holidays. Going to the craft store, planning a project then making things is a good time for parents to give kids extra attention.

-Children should be encouraged to make their own wish lists, but to also describe why they want each item, to think a little, giving parents the chance to modify expectations before the fateful unwrapping.

-Start your own traditions

-Go to the Nutcracker, a tree lighting ceremony or drive around to see holiday      lights

-Open an Advent calendar

-Go to church or synagogue

-Let kids choose holiday music

-Bring out the ornaments and reminisce about each one

-Give kids a disposable camera and put them in charge of picture taking

-Encourage children to make New Year’s resolutuons and share your own hopes for the coming year.

-The best time to consciously create new traditions is when the family has been touched by divorce, death, or some major change. Even if it only means having dinner at a different time, try to differentiate between the past and now.

-Most importantly, include children in as many holiday events as possible.



According to quickguidetogoodkids.com

The holidays are one of the busiest times of the year for people with children. Managing kid-related holiday stress is a great way to really celebrate the season. Ten tips to help you get started:

(1) For babies and toddlers, less is more. They can handle only so much that’s new and exciting without a meltdown. So if they won’t sit on Santa’s lap, just accept it. Instead of forcing your children into something you think they will enjoy, let them choose what activities are right for them.

(2) Prepare just two or three carefully chosen gifts for the little ones. Very small children don’t need or want a lot of stuff.

(3) Don’t over-schedule grade school kids. You’ll be able to enjoy the events you do attend more if you aren’t thinking about the next thing you have to attend. Pick one or two, with input from your kids, and take time to savor each experience as a family.

(4) Avoid junk food. At this time of year, you’ve got more than enough excitement without it. You can make your special chocolate fudge, but give it out just one piece at a time.

(5) For older kids, limit yourself to four or five gifts per child. This is enough to make an exciting display around the tree. Also, when it’s time to open the gifts, take it one gift at a time. Your children will enjoy not just opening their own gifts, but also watching their family members open theirs.

(6) Give your children presents that help them develop their special interests and talents. If you’re not sure exactly what they are in to these days, ask! What could be a better opportunity for open communication?

(7) Solve the problem of hard-to-buy-for teenagers by taking them shopping with you. Together, you can make choices that are mutually agreeable.

(8) Volunteer your services to a local nonprofit agency and take your kids with you. When they spend an afternoon wrapping “Toys for Tots” or giving out goods at a food pantry, they’ll understand the joy of giving in ways you could never explain. Volunteering their time to help others will help them understand that the holidays aren’t only about getting gifts, attending parties, and eating holiday treats.”

(9) Plan ahead for some quiet family time. Whatever holiday you celebrate–Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or something altogether different–be sure to build in some time for relaxation and family togetherness.

(10) For divorced parents, call a truce during the holidays. For everyone’s sake, but especially for the kids, keep things friendly and light. Overlook the problems and forget the complaints for the space of the holidays, and be thankful you’ve got the family you have.