making family happy at Christmas

Most people with a family probably like the idea of doing things together and enjoying the Christmas season as a united celebration. Yet it isn’t always easy to do, especially as kids grow older.

I think a key to making Christmas a family event is to include each person’s values and ideals. That probably means taking the time to discover what each person’s values actually are, of course, and then working together to incorporate those things.

For many Australians, Christmas Day is a whirlwind of opening gifts, visiting people and having huge meals before travelling to the next event. Yet what are the little things that actually matter to you and your family? Maybe it’s the tradition of opening gifts on Mum and Dad’s bed or having fresh fruit for breakfast, perhaps it’s singing carols together or having quiet time between gift-giving and dealing with lots of other people, and so on.

Plan at least one important thing for each person into your Christmas Day FIRST and then fit in other things. This way, everyone feel included and can look forward to part of Christmas Day.

Be willing to discuss new idea, too, and accept that some old traditions may not suit any more (what was cute for  a 2-year-old may be embarrassing or boring for a 14-year-old).

Throw in some extra fun, too, as part of the lead up to Christmas – and maybe in the days afterwards. Make things more relaxed, having everyone at home without guests or the need to dress up, and do family things – play board games, sing karaoke, do a jigsaw, play charades, make paper chains, watch a movie, give each other massages or play ‘truth or dare’.

Building some family Christmas memories will make Christmas fun and probably reduce some of the stress Christmas can cause.

What does Christmas mean to you?

Put aside the outside definitions of Christmas (including what close family and friends would say) and consider what Christmas means to you personally.

What is important to you, what are the values of Christmas and the holiday season?

Is it about the birth of Christ, being with family, having a special meal with loved ones, giving thoughtful gifts, giving service to others, being social and seeing many people, or is it a break from the everyday?

Knowing what Christmas means to you and what you want from Christmas can be liberating – it can mean:

  1. making sure you get that important thing so Christmas is not a disappointment for the next 12 months
  2. being able to ignore some of the other pressures and expectations to concentrate on what you really want to
  3. a clear idea when discussing plans with family – if everyone has a clearer view, discussions are simpler and compromises easier
  4. set some real priorities
So why not spend the time thinking about what Christmas means to you? Share your ideas and any thoughts that help you clarify your Christmas values, too.

Should Christmas gifts have a purpose?

When choosing gifts for your children, do you put a lot of intellectual thought into it, or just grab an easier option (like what the kids are nagging for!)?

In an ideal world, I think we should have a purpose in mind for the gifts we give our children.

For example, we may decide it is important to encourage activity rather than sedentary lifestyle so we chose (predominantly at least) gifts to suit that lifestyle value. Or maybe healthy eating is important to you so you give dried fruit instead of lollies and healthy cook books rather than chocolate ones!

Instead of overall values, maybe the purpose of for gifts would suit each child and help with things they need to develop (maybe Scrabble for someone struggling with reading, jigsaws for those not skilled in problem solving or Pictionary or Cazoo for kids who need more communication skills).

As much fun and pleasure as kids derive from opening the gifts at Christmas, surely we should keep the big picture in mind and choose gifts that lead the child in directions we like?

Mind you, I am not saying give kids presents they’ll hate – let them enjoy Christmas and we want them to use the purposeful gifts. Just find a compromise – don’t give an inactive kid a bike but perhaps give an electronic game that involves moving or a scooter for getting to and from school.

What do you think? Is it better to choose gifts with a purpose, that support your goals and aims as parents (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc)?

If not completely about purpose, what proportion of their gifts would you like to have a purpose?

Share your Christmas story