Family Time for the Holidays

By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.

Think back to your childhood for just a minute and remember what you did during the holiday season. What was the weather like where you lived? What room in your house had the most activity? What kinds of holiday decorations were around? Who were the special people around you? The holidays awaken all of our senses and awaken us to the true meaning of our lives.

Children require a predictable routine to grow but they also require the magic of celebrations to discover their unique place in the universe. No one in their right mind would recommend more to do in a busy family’s life. Instead, the question is: what can you eliminate from your schedules so you can enjoy the holidays and create “family time” for you and your children?

Think for a moment of your extra long holiday-to-do-list and eliminate a few of those things you are doing because you think you are supposed to do them, not because they are meaningful to you. For example, your sister-in-law’s tree trimming party; those new fangled, ultra special decorations that everyone is buying this year; or the cookies you hate to bake. Now is the time to stop (no, not shop) and smell the evergreens!

Who in your family needs more downtime from obligations and commitments? If you are like most people, you are probably hard pressed to decide. Adults and children alike need more time to just be! This year’s holiday challenge is to take mini breaks from the madness to be with your family – act silly, count the belly laughs, and make this the holiday season that you rediscover the love in your home. Here are a few suggestions for you and your family to do together. Pick or reinvent any activity that sounds like fun to you. Martha Stewart has no expectations for you this year!


Photo Album Night: Clear everyone’s schedule (attendance is mandatory) and bring out all those baby pictures and pictures of holidays past. Tell your family stories�talk about people, places, and events that live in a special place in your heart. A little family gossip will also add some spice to your children’s memories!

Sing-Along Night: Everyone takes turns leading the family in song. Holiday songs, show tunes, or camp songs – just get singing! You might even want to write your own family lyrics and record them for next year. Remember the days when people entertained one another without television.

Pajamas, Lights, & Ice Cream (or cider): Parents and children dress in their jammies for a car tour of your city’s holiday lights. End the festivities with ice cream or cider�you can even come home and draw pictures of your favorite lights (parents too now! And, by the way, shouldn’t parents get refrigerator door space to post their accomplishments – I think so.)

Backwards Day: Designate one day close to New Year’s when all meals are backwards; dinner foods for breakfast, snacks at noon, lunch is late afternoon, and breakfast is served for dinner. I dare you to wear to your shirts backwards and your shoes on the wrong feet!

Holiday Placemats: Make placemats for your holiday table by decorating colorful sheets of construction paper with children’s handprints, holiday stickers, holiday sponges & tempera paint, photographs, magazine pictures, or holiday messages. You can even personalize a placemat for each holiday guest by pasting their picture on the construction paper, adding a holiday message and decorations. Holiday messages might include: “I treasure my grandfather’s stories.” “My dad is the best gift wrapper in the universe.” “My grandmother makes the world’s best latkes.” When finished, take the decorated placemats to an office store to be laminated. Love and food go hand-in-hand!

Holidays are about food and presents. More importantly, they are about love. There are countless ways to spend time together. Try, if you can, to capture a child’s sense of time. A child knows that efficiency is overrated in “family time” – time well-spent is time spent doing what you want to do. A child knows that productivity does not apply in “family time” – what you have to “show” for your time together will not be known for at least another generation. A child knows how to feel love in “family time” – there are no substitutes. Hang up your obligations and worries on the mistletoe for a little while and be in love.

� Family Time Inc. 2004

Karen Deerwester is the owner of Family Time Coaching & Consulting, writing and lecturing on parenting and early childhood topics since 1984. Karen is also the Mommy & Me director at The Ruth and Edward Taubman Early Childhood Center at B�nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton. 

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