It’s that time of year again when our kids are dropping hints about what Santa can bring them and gift-giving is taking up a lot of brain space, along with the other million things you have to get done this holiday season. We live in a society where materialism and commercialism are pervasive themes and the messages our kids received from the media and friends can be irresistible at this time of the year. To counteract this sense of entitlement one of the best things you can give your children for Christmas is time spent making memories together.
Memories from childhood are some of the most precious we have as they shape our lives and have a significant impact on the kind of people we become. Those magic moments that touch our hearts and delight our souls may seem trivial to others, but the memory of them consistently provides a boost of positive emotion that lifts us out of sadness and desolation.
Research has shown that people who have childhoods filled with experiences imbued with joy, love and fun have a more optimistic disposition as well as better health later in life. It’s our job as parents to help our children make quality memories they will treasure forever.
These memories don’t necessarily have to be of expensive gifts; very few of my childhood memories revolve around gifts that I received. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the gifts I was given, I did, it’s just that the most treasured memories I have are of spending time with family and the experiences we had together.
It’s the Christmas traditions that we shared, the rituals and acts of celebration that provided bonds of connection between generations. These magic moments weren’t precision-planned – they were tiny, impromptu fun-filled moments, quiet moments before bed, time spent in the kitchen cooking a family recipe, telling stories, laughing at family jokes, decorating the tree, singing Christmas carols together or watching our favourite Christmas movies.
Any moment can be turned into a magic memory when we set aside time to be with our kids and intentionally fill this time with love and connection. These moments may require our time and energy, but they don’t have to be taxing or emotionally draining, which is especially important after what everyone has been through the past two years. Sometimes we just need to hop off the treadmill, forget the daily routine and let both ourselves and our kids relax away from the unending grind.
Decide to do something fun as a family. Take unexpected trips to different places; it doesn’t have to be expensive. Find some interesting places or Christmas activities around your hometown, this changes things up and is something they will remember and talk about fondly in years to come. Create unique Christmas traditions for your family that your kids will then carry on with their kids. We used to have a day in our house that was called ‘Super Happy Fun Day’ where we put aside everything else and spent the day doing whatever made us happy, whatever made us laugh, it didn’t have to be big or extravagant – it was simply a fun way of making shared memories that are still talked about today.
We are the magicians in our children’s lives creating magic moments they will look back on, times when they felt enveloped in a blanket of love when they felt understood and had a deep-seated sense of belonging and connection. These memories are psychological pick me up our children need an emotional boost, touchstones they will return to time and time again throughout their lives. Helping our children make memories filled with joy, love and fun this Christmas helps lay foundations of emotional wellbeing and positive mental health which are gifts that will last a lifetime.
Kari Sutton is an educator, speaker and author who has helped over 25,000 children, parents, and educators with evidence-based strategies, tools and approaches to foster children’s positive mental health and plant the seeds of resilience, emotional wellbeing and mental fitness in our children.