8 Ways to Make Christmas Magical for Your Kids
By Michelle Alfaro
1. Don’t stress yourself out
Okay, I’m starting this list off with probably the most important thing of all. Why? Because I know some of you won’t read this article all the way through (which is totally fine. I don’t blame you! Who has got time for seven more tips?) If nothing else, I hope you can remember this one: Christmas will only be happy and magical for your family if YOU are happy and feeling the magic. If you are totally stressing out about the perfect gift, or the perfect decorations, or the perfect neighbor gifts, stop it. Right. Now. Your stress is ruining Christmas! Seriously, I know when I’m on edge, I’m much more prone to snapping at my innocent child’s millionth question, or millionth request for chocolate milk. So, take it easy this Holiday Season! Just relax! The best present your children could EVER have is time with the happiest version of you.
2. Let them help you put up the decorations
Keeping in mind my very first suggestion, I know this next tip may be a bit of a stretch. I have as many precious ornaments as the next gal, and I usually try to let only myself or my husband be the ones to put them on the Christmas Tree. But this year, I let my little ones help me out. It made them feel important to handle those precious, and very pretty, ornaments. They understood they were important to me, so we were going to put them up high, but boy, did they feel like GREAT helpers when we lifted them up so they could reach the top boughs.
3. Let them help you make and deliver Christmas treats
I don’t know about your kids, but as soon as my oven lets me know it’s ready, my children come scampering into the kitchen to see what’s up. “Is it bacon? Is it cookies?” Then, when I pull out my mixer, all restraint is thrown out the window and I suddenly have the handiest sous pastry chefs Gordon Ramsey (or is it Christina Tosi?) could want. And, I guiltily admit that I usually shuffle them right back out the way they came. But this year, I’m bound and determined to let them help me put together the very simple neighbor snack bags I have planned. Why? Because it will make them happy to help, and then happy to see other people happy when we deliver them. It’s all about the magic this year, folks.
4. Let them help you pick out presents for other family members.
Let your kids help you pick out a small gift for their father or mother without your spouse knowing. It will be a sweet surprise for your loved one and will allow your children to feel included in the whole magic of Christmas. Take it one step further and let them pick out a gift for a sibling. They may have some separation anxiety from the awesome set of legos they just saw, but it’s practice in the lesson of giving. Just don’t be surprised or angry if they spill the beans a little early!
5. Read them Christmas stories
“Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot.” I’ve pretty much got that whole story (which is longer than you expect when you open it up!) down pat. My kids LOVE that story. All. Year. Long. And when Christmas rolls around, not only do we HAVE to read the story (sometimes several times a day), but also watch the movie, and listen to the music on my Pandora station. While I’m a huge fan of the Grinch, there are about a MILLION different Christmas stories you can sink your teeth into that are just for kids. Go to your local library and look up a few. They are sure to get you in the Christmas spirit, and being read to as a child can be a very formative for future development. Some of my absolute fondest memories growing up was when my mother or my father would read me a bedtime story. This time of year, just make it a Christmas bedtime story!
6. Make traditions together
Ever wonder if it’s all worth it when your little one throws himself on the floor for a massive tantrum, just when you’re about to dig into that feast? Traditions are wonderful. Traditions are what people remember year after year. Traditions are especially nice with kids because it helps them feel like they know what’s going to happen. In my opinion, some kids act out because they just don’t know what’s going to happen next and traditions help them orient themselves during a possibly stressful time when routines have been interrupted. If the idea of traditions and high expectations makes you shudder, take a minute to sit down and ask your kids what they would like to do this holiday season. It may surprise you how manageable their suggestions will be and will also help them feel like they have a say about the celebration.
7. Let them help you help someone else
Of course neighbor treats are nice, but in my opinion, it’s very important to help children see that not everyone has a warm, snuggly home where Santa can come get some cookies and milk on Christmas Eve. Sometimes, a family has gotta help Santa out. It teaches those kids gratitude. It teaches them to be on the lookout for service. And those are the kinds of humans I want to live with. So, this year my family is teaming up with a local charity and we are on the lookout for some excellent toys that don’t happen to be for the tiny humans I’ll be lugging into the store with me. Of course, I’m prepared for the shock of them not being able to play with what they picked out. But I’m also prepared with the speech of their lives. About giving. About what Christmas is really about. Which leads me into my next, and final, point.
8. Help them remember what’s important
This may be totally controversial, and you can throw out the next thing I’m about to say: I’m really not a big fan of the Santa thing. Maybe it’s because my big brothers spoiled it for me when I was about four, and my mother backed them up when I asked her about it. (She said she promised herself that she would NEVER lie to her children…even when a sobbing four year old suddenly questioned everything she ever knew.) In my opinion, Santa dilutes everything that makes Christmas special. Yes, I know Santa is great for movies and a dash of whimsy, but really this holiday is about helping others. Why would we attribute that to some make-believe figure? Why not remember the person who helped us more than anyone else could when He was born 2,000 years ago? It might be a better idea, in my humble opinion, to focus on the figure who was real. Who had real emotions, and real things to teach us. Call me Scrooge, but Santa just isn’t one of the things that ever made Christmas special for me.
I hope these few suggestions help you turn a normally stressful and unmemorable year into something your children will talk about for years to come. Christmas is important. Besides birthdays, it’s probably the biggest day of the year for those little ones. Let’s help that day live up to its hype. Not by adding more presents, or bling, or Santa-talk, but by adding what really matters: a happy little piece of you, of service, and of love.