California Kids Help Bring Traditions and Meaning to the Holidays


Holidays are not only the most stressful time of year for families trying to work, get in their exercise and sports, attend parties and shop, they are also one of the most missed opportunities for parents to create meaning in their kids' lives. 


If you grew up in a simpler time (or not), as you mature you look for simple markers and events that brought fond memories to cling to from your childhood.  For many, celebrating a birthday and being treated really special on that day was so great that you took that celebration with you into adulthood.  Some people love it so much, they carry out their birthday for an entire month.  Families can make a concerted effort to go beyond that, and turn national holidays into times of pleasure and family kinship for their children.


In today's landscape, children often stress over which parent they will be with or how they'll satisfy both parents' needs to see them during holidays. A mature adult will consider the holiday is not about "me" but about the kids and what will help them in their growth.  The "me" society is everywhere, and does little to provide positive role models for youth who need a lesson plan for growing up and gaining more out of life.


Americans really suffer a holiday crunch from October 31 - January 1 each year. In an eight week span the family unit is pushed into plans for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year Eve and New Year's Day celebrations.  Lots of money is spent and time invested on children and the family budget during this season. For many, it is also the crunch in which property taxes are due, income tax is on its way and other expenses eat at the dwindling dollar.  So what to do?


Recent studies asking children what they want to do on vacations yielded answers so cheap and simple, you'll be amazed at how little it will cost you to please a child. The majority of children said their top choice was doing something with their parent, be it eating dinner at a restaurant or sitting down together for quality time. For those worried about spending, the solution is pretty simple. Save one day of pay that you could equate to a basket of trinkets and toys, and spend it with your kid.


Halloween -

 Kids love the petting zoos and rides at a pumpkin patch. But the cutest thing of all is watching a kid pick out a pumpkin.  There's size relationship learning as a child eyes the ideal specimen, then tries to pick it up.  Let the kid pick out a pumpkin he or she can carry. Many of us have overzealously sought the perfect shape and biggest size. It is OK to be an achiever and go for a big one yourself, but let the kid get a chance to feel that process too, in their own little way.


This is the ultimate family holiday because the parent has to do something to dress up the kid, then take them out for trick-or-treating or entertainment on October 31. It is the biggest photo-op day of the year for parents, who proudly show off their skills in decking their kids out in costumes.  Some parents go as far as to carving the pumpkin with their children, and soliciting their help in the costume. That process is the best opportunity to bond and have fun. It's what kids want most, attention from mom & dad.


Thanksgiving -

Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go.  The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the bright and drifty snow. Yeah right! The fantasy song written before jets and cars helped us speed great distances for a two-to-four day getaway offers an idealized notion of Thanksgiving or Christmas.  In California, there's not a lot of snow unless you go to certain mountains such as Mammoth Lakes, which offers some of the largest annual snowfall amounts. But going to grandma's house is a lofty goal, and if you have a grandma or your children do, and you can get to her, by all means, do it on Thanksgiving. Thanksgivings, unfortunately, tend to be a drag for children who can't sit for 10 hours and watch sports on TV.  Usually one parent, and most often female, has to find a local park to keep the kids entertained while the males sit and watch their favorite football games. It's pretty tough to break out of that thinking and go for something a bit more kid-oriented on this holiday. Some ideas to add participation from the children is 1. Let them help with cooking.  2. Do some of your Christmas shopping ahead of time and let the children wrap presents around the table with the television blaring.  3. Add something to the trip for the kids. Look for local Santa Villages, parades, zoos or other activities traditionally overlooked around Thanksgiving. Last Thanksgiving we found a grandma with her two pre-teen grandsons helping them fish at the Belmont Pier in Long Beach.  They got up in the morning and drove over an hour to the destination. And each day of that holiday weekend, she drove them to different piers. While fishing isn't for every child, the boys were having the best time with a really cool lady who taught them some of her secrets about fishing.


Christmas -

We have a bias for kids' participation events building up to the holiday. Nutcracker performances are one of our favorites, because it allows children to dream, play and work at a goal that creates a beautiful story woven through dance. Children are great actors and should be encouraged to participate in not only dance, but living nativities, local plays and productions, and other participatory events that promote the arts. Even a sing-along can be fun for a kid during the holidays.  Some incredible families do a lot more by taking their children with them to soup kitchens and other places where they volunteer in serving food, cleaning tables and helping less fortunate members of society. It is a lesson in solutions as kids gain insight into individuals, not classes of society. There are many things that families can do in the five-week build up to Christmas day. Making it a season is the best approach to cut stress.  From selecting a family tree, to decorating it, baking cookies to making presents, the old-fashioned approach of hand-crafting items offers one of the best lessons in spirit and love, rather than money and material possessions.





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