The following is a guest post written by Cari Stone of Thoughts Interrupted.
A note from Jamie: As the countdown for Christmas begins, I hope you can glean some helpful tips from this repost. It originally published on December 21, 2011.
I finally had enough. Somewhere between untangling the brand new battery operated car out of my daughter’s hair and consuming one too many cookies baked by my diabetic second cousin, I knew much of what I’d come to accept about Christmas Day needed to change.
Amidst the merriment I’d forgotten a key piece of our family’s rhythm – the invaluable practice of establishing expectations.
As homeschoolers we’re fairly adept at setting the stage in our regular lives. Well communicated expectations offer both structure and fluidity to our days – an established paradigm to explore within. Everyone, it seems, can breathe easier when our expressed hopes and desires are on the table.
Why then do we tend to sidestep this discipline in the name of Christmas break? The end results (misbehaving children, one too many trips to the dessert table or missed opportunities on the relational front) are often laced with regret.
Let this year be different.
Somewhere between stuffing stockings and baking that final pie take a moment to consider the value that shared expectations can bring to this year’s celebration.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. A Team Approach
My husband and I fully embrace the notion of opposites attracting. It makes for an interesting ride. It can also spell disaster if we forgo those essential conversations about how we envision things going.
Take a few minutes to talk things over with your spouse. Make sure you understand what the other is hoping to experience come Christmas morning. Together you have the opportunity to set an incredible tone.
2. Tour Guide
Next, invite your kids into the conversation. Provide them with a vision for the day before it actually unfolds.
Will you be traveling to family or will they be coming your way? What time will the main meal be served? How might the kids help throughout the day?
Essentially you’re the acting tour guide for the festivities at hand. Have fun and don’t shy away from voicing what needs to happen.
Remember, kids crave both inclusion and a plan.
Casting a vision is key. It also has tremendous potential to cut down on the number of times you’re asked when they can open their presents.
3. Present Time
Few things thrill kids more this time of year than the magic and wonder of Christmas morning. Gifts are so much fun. They can also leave the smallest in the bunch over stimulated and seemingly void of any and all manners without some helpful input along the way.
Take a moment to bridge the subject of present time. Help your kids make the connection that gift giving involves time, thoughtfulness and generosity.
The conversation can then naturally move towards what’s about to take place (most likely, lots of receiving).Don’t be afraid to establish some ground rules. In our house we’ve opted to forgo the free-for-all ripping through packages approach – no magic has been lost because of this.
In its place we ask that our girls take turns opening gifts. This gives them the chance to acknowledge who the present is from (whether or not that person is there) and to say thank you to those who are in a sincere (looking them in the eyes) sort of way.
Of course this takes practice. Two year-old’s aren’t known for fine-tuned enunciation and eye contact.
Still, over time we’ve witnessed that wonder and gratitude can in fact share the same space.
4. Let’s Eat
Christmas Day and overeating often feel both synonymous and unchangeable. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Establishing expectations before you and your family ever set eyes (and noses and mouths) on this year’s holiday fare can make all the difference.
While doing so can feel a bit Grinch-like (it is only one day after all) consider for a moment the alternative. I have yet to meet a child who remains pleasant after consuming several portions of dessert or handfuls of red and green M&Ms. Likewise, there seems to be a direct correlation between parental engagement and patience (or lack thereof) and that third portion of mashed potatoes.
That’s really what it comes down to. Christmas cuisine is fabulous; it is also rich and filling and a potential joy robber if we don’t exercise restraint.
Enjoy your meal. Encourage your kids to do the same.
And begin the day with a plan that will leave everyone feeling their best.
How have expectations (or a lack there of) helped or hindered your holiday season?