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Wilburn: Dont get caught up in holiday trappings
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Why are you celebrating?

Families have many expectations of holidays. They may hope that the holidays will:

  • Re-affirm religious and spiritual beliefs
  • Strengthen family bonds
  • Foster a spirit of family joy and fun
  • Stimulate compassion and generosity
  • Re-establish connections with long-distance family and friends
  • Renew commitments to the family

When your children are all grown up with families of their own, what do you want them to remember about the holidays of their childhood?

It's a question worth asking as you plan holiday festivities.

Many parents feel out of control and victimized by the commercial pressures of this time of year. One way to put yourself back in the driver's seat is by spending a little time thinking about what the holidays meant to you and what you want your children to value about this time of family togetherness.

Recalling the poignant memories of your own childhood is the place to start. What stands out in your mind as evoking the holiday spirit? You may be surprised that what you remember can be a far cry from the images of what the holidays "ought to be" as seen in popular magazines or on television.

What's important here is to become conscious of your own values, then establish traditions that can best convey them to your children.

Focus on values

Ask yourself these questions: "What am I celebrating? Why do I spend so much time, energy and money? What do I want to experience at this time of year?"

Talking ideas over with the other adults in your family is the first step. After the adults agree on the focus of the holidays, include the children, a few weeks ahead, in a discussion of what they think would be fun to do together over the holidays.

Saying no to everything advertised on television and fighting over it may be worse than giving in on some things. Go along a little bit with what they would like while helping them develop the values you'd like them to have.

Keep it simple

Be selective in how many events and activities you include in your plans. Be careful not to overburden yourself and your family. If you want to create a holiday feeling that is positive and meaningful for children, you need to keep things manageable and to allow enough time to do things with them at their own pace.

It's particularly important to keep this in mind if you have young children. Very simple things satisfy preschoolers. And they are pleased by repetition. For them it's being together that's the fun. Making simpler meals, using more pre-made products or suggesting one of the dinner guests bring the turkey to reduce the demands on your time can allow you to enjoy your children's delight in special holiday traditions.

If you focus too much on all the fancy trimmings, when the celebrations are over you may realize you don't even know what happened. The day is gone, everyone is exhausted and cranky and you end up asking yourself, "What did we do with the children today?"

Adapted from Cornell University Cooperative Extension

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Her Family Ties column runs in Sunday Life on the first Sunday of each month. Contact: 770-535-8290.