In the days after Christmas… as parents you are probably still exhausted, the gift wrapping may still be in the garbage, and if you’re lucky your kids may still be playing with their new toys.
In the days leading up to Christmas we may have family gatherings, secret Santa exchanges, or outings with friends to see holiday shows (i.e. Polar Express, Santa, etc.).
We spend so much time prepping for the holidays, making sure Santa gets our kids’ wish lists, and going on different outings… but what do we do when it’s all over? Do we completely disconnect and let the new toys do the parenting?
Hold that thought...
You may be surprised to know the song “12 Days of Christmas” (you know which one… the partridge in a pear tree), really refers to the twelve days after Christmas which is the period between December 25th (when Jesus was born) and January 6th (when the Wise Men gave gifts to baby Jesus), most commonly known as Three Kings Day.
Placing Christian ideals aside, it makes sense to acknowledge the days after Christmas. Before you get scared… I don’t mean more gifts! What I do mean is spending time with your kids and really being present while doing so. Having your kids home from school may give you the ]additional time to learn more about them, and even from them! Not only may your kids appreciate your mindful presence, but it may also give you the opportunity to really acknowledge your kids for the special little humans they are!
Here is my version of the song 12 Days of Christmas… feel free to sing along.
12/26. On the first day of Christmas my parent gave to me… a trip to the movies.
Whether your child be 2, 12 or 22, take them to the movies (their choice of movie, if appropriate) and be sure to discuss it afterwards! Is going to the theater too much? Then Netflix and chat!
12/27. On the second day of Christmas my parent gave to me… two loving hugs.
The human touch is vital for our overall happiness and well-being. There is research that shows holding hugs for longer than 8 seconds increases serotonin levels which boosts happiness. Giving your child at least two hugs is a minimum, but the more, the merrier.
12/28. On the third day of Christmas my parent gave to me… three books to read.
Reading to your kids each and every day is so important, especially at a young age. Whether it be one book, or three short books, read to your child, with your child by taking turns, or listen to them read at least for 3-15 minutes a day, depending on the child’s age.
12/29. On the fourth day of Christmas my parent gave to me… time for calling friends, or rather time to call friends.
Building face-to-face relationships with peers is a skill which needs to be practiced, since we spend so much of our time now behind screens. Sometimes we can’t assume our kids know how to do this. When they’re young, we set up playdates for them. As they get older, we may need to model or walk them through what to say so they learn these necessary skills.
12/30. On the fifth day of Christmas my parent gave to me… five minutes of listening.
Sure we hear [most] things our kids tell us, but when do we ever do so with complete eye contact and no interruptions? Challenge yourself! You will be surprised of what you learn!
12/31. On the sixth day of Christmas my parent gave to me… time for flexibility.
There is something to be said for having some kind of schedule for kids, as they do well and can benefit from having routine in their lives. It is also just as important for kids to have the opportunity to be themselves and just play. However, I don’t mean to be left to play Fortnite for hours on end. Instead of having every day scheduled down to the minute, give your kids the opportunity to use their imagination and play on their own. Also, have flexibility in your schedule for kids to be able to adapt to changes, as on New Year’s Eve, as it may help to make them more resilient and adaptable to changes in the future.
1/1. On the seventh day of Christmas my parent gave to me… activity on goal-setting,
A majority of adults set some kind of New Year’s resolution. Sharing the skill of goal-setting with our kids at a young age is very beneficial, and should be done year round, not only on New Year’s Eve/Day. Perhaps they can pick up their play area after each use, be kinder to their siblings, do better in school, or save more of their allowance. Be sure to come back to my blog soon for a goal-setting freebie for kids.
1/2. On the eighth day of Christmas my parent gave to me… a level of responsibility.
As early as one year of age, kids can be taught to have ownership over something that has taken place. For example, if a toy falls, they can pick it up. For older kids things may get somewhat more complicated. While we want to be our kids’ superheroes all the time, it is okay to let our kids fall/fail sometimes and just be there for them as a safety net. The experience of frustration and failure will help build your child’s levels of resilience. If we are always swooping in, they may not learn the skills they need to be well-functioning adults.
1/3. On the ninth day of Christmas my parent gave to me… nine minutes of dancing.
When is the last time you had a mini dance party with your kid? They may make fun of your dance moves the entire time, but the laughs will be loud and the memories created will be fond. And for bonus points… you get a mini workout session in!
1/4. On the tenth day of Christmas my parent gave to me… the choice to give to charity.
For children it is an amazing feeling to receive, and giving to others is great too. However, giving a away possession that was once very special is another set of feelings altogether! Before and after Christmas I had my five-year-old gather old toys together to give away. It’s funny how before Christmas he was only able to choose a handful of toys to give away. After Christmas he was able to choose many more! Start them early!
1/5. On the eleventh day of Christmas my parent gave to me… the concept of volunteering.
Continuing with the idea of charitable work, plan an activity where you both give your time for the benefit of others. Whether it be helping a neighbor, donating money or food, or participating in an organized event, your child will learn a lot from you, build good character, and you will both create memories.
1/6. On the twelfth day of Christmas my parent gave to me… twelve minutes of playing.
Play is a child’s first language. For young children, even when they have words to use, they are better able to express themselves through play. For older children, they may reveal more things while they are playing a game, when compared to a direct conversation. Virginia Axline said it best, “Enter into children’s play and you will find a place where their minds, hearts and souls meet.” Play is crucial to a child’s mental health, click here to learn more.
I hope you have enjoyed my version of the 12 Days (after) Christmas, and that you were able to sing along. Whether it be Christmas, another holiday, or anytime year round, our kids deserve the best of us, and there is no better present than your presence and building their character.
Interested in becoming a more mindful parent? Click here for a free Reflective and Mindful Parenting Workbook.
Counselor De Jesus
Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is a former teacher, school counselor and licensed associate counselor serving children and families in the northern New Jersey area. To learn more visit www.freetobemindful.com.