We are quickly heading into the holiday season. It can be such a fun time for family and friends. However the activities of the holidays are a lot of work and expense for most families. There is decorating, meals to prepare, all the plans for family gatherings, gifts to buy, schedules to plan, travel plans and the list go on and on.
For those who have children and teenagers there can be some interesting responses to all of the festivities. Particularly as teenagers develop there may be more interest in being with their friends than being with family during the holidays. Sometimes their anticipation of the holidays is not joyful but has more of a sense of obligation or even dread. This can be discouraging to parents and caregivers and can add family angst to the holiday season.
The added issues surrounding gift buying, giving and receiving is also a significant part of holiday events. It can be draining emotionally, physical and financially. In those moments where the expression of gratitude does not quite measure up to the work and value of the gift it can be frustrating to be in the role of the giver. Sometimes we wonder how we got here and how to change what appears to be a sense of ungratefulness or even a level of entitlement.
Whether you have children who are appreciative or not one helpful idea is to be more intentional about what messages we are sending as we give gifts. It may be more helpful to think of gift-giving as message sending. Let’s say they want a Lego set. We could affirm that they like to create, build or innovate. If they like a video game could there be something in that game that could affirm some of their strengths or interests? Even the desire for certain clothes can reflect their artistry, practicality or sense of a unique appearance that could convey a positive self-image.
Meaningful cards are easy to find and purchase. However, nothing replaces a personal note that affirms, supports, appreciates, encourages, challenges or dreams about who they are or who they will be one day. We could also verbally give them a message as we hand them their gift.
To be effective this may take some forethought and planning. It may be good to think of the message that we want to communicate and how that might be best conveyed in the process of gift-giving. I think it adds a deeper level of meaning for the holiday season. Every one of us needs affirmation and it is one of the most brain healthy things we can do to encourage our children and teenagers. It also could be helpful to set the tone for family interactions during the holidays. Imagine a family where everyone is purposed to encourage and affirm.
So as you begin the process of readiness for the holidays with all of the family fanfare, take a few moments to think and plan purposefully about the messages that will accompany what you plan to give to those in your family. Messages of faith, love, hope, encouragement, acceptance, nurture and constancy of support can really impact the environment of our gatherings and holiday season. Being intentional can make a significant difference to our holiday celebrations and help us all feel like our gifts are gratifying to give and to receive.