The holiday season is upon us again, and many of you will find yourselves reflecting. Of course, you’re bound to be caught up in the whirlwind of Black Friday sales and the quest for the perfect stocking stuffer.
But with the holidays usually comes an underlying sense of wistfulness. There’s invariably an empty place at the Thanksgiving table, or an empty hook where a stocking once hung. I wrote in a previous post about the importance I place on teaching my own kids that the holidays are about giving. But I also strive to instill in them that Christmas, the holiday we choose to celebrate, is a celebration of family.
This year in particular I’ll cast more than one glance in the direction of the unoccupied seats at the family table. Recent events have caused me to think, once again and even harder, about teaching my kids the value of family. The shine of a new gift will eventually dull, but the warmth of those who love you will never cool.
My own recent experiences aren’t unique to me. Every person on this planet who has loved is also one who has felt loss. But the sorrow may be fresher in my mind than it is yours. That having been said, I want to use this opportunity to remind you: keep close to those you love. Hold them tight, and show affection often.
I’m by no means a perfect parent. I fall far short more than I excel. But I do believe that there are three ways you can teach your children the importance of family. I’d invite you to share your own, if you see fit.
1. Establish family traditions.
Family traditions are so simple; my family has a few. My boys are now ten and eight, and even to this day, we’ll still venture out to the café in the first snow of every year. We still kill a bowl of popcorn and watch Rudolph every Christmas Eve. And we still hold an epic water balloon fight at least once each summer – mess be darned.
Sharing family traditions with your children tells them that you are an important part of their world. And later, when they have children of their own, they can pass those traditions on to their own children. You’ll know that they’re always thinking of you when they curl up on the couch with their own kids to watch the Christmas special.
2. Keep your promises.
I made a mistake one year. It was a Thursday afternoon, and I’d promised my son that the following day we would “play hooky” from daycare and go meet Santa Claus. My son was almost three at the time, and the excitement on his face could have lit the room.
After tucking him in, I walked downstairs, unsure of what time Santa would be “available to meet” the next day. To my horror, I discovered that I’d had the week wrong all along. Santa wasn’t due to make his way down from the North Pole until the following week.
I literally stayed up all night. I searched and searched for a place that was hosting Santa – the nearest was about a three hour drive from our home. So I did what any good parent would do: I called my dad.
Dad dressed up as Santa Claus using a suit he’d borrowed from the Masonic Lodge. I still chuckle now thinking of my boy’s face as he tried to figure out how he recognized Santa’s voice. But I kept my promise. I firmly believe that keeping promises to our children encourages trust and builds a bond. It’s through that bond that kids learn the importance of family, the people who will never let them down.
3. Don’t just tell them you love them.
Physical touch is one of the strongest ways to communicate with your child. Even from birth, the touch of a parent teaches children the importance of family connections. They’ll begin to associate your hugs with reassurance. Your hand on their shoulder will show support or encouragement. Simply tucking them into bed at night can be magical and healing.
Start young. Even fussy infants can be reassured by babywearing; start with an infant carrier or a sling. As your child grows, he’ll learn that the touch of family is a “good touch,” one that is safe and signifies love.
I know that as a parent you’ve your own philosophy on sharing family values and family traditions. Why not take the time to share; please feel free to leave your respectful comments below. Even if you choose not to share, I encourage you to take this season to connect with your family. Enjoy your kids, enjoy your parents and other family members. And help your kids learn the importance of enjoying their family, too.