The month of December is a hectic time for many families. Lack of patience and sleep is often the result of overloaded schedules that are full of holiday parties, shopping, baking, traveling, and more. Add busy work and school schedules to that and you can have one stressed out family. But, despite the craziness, this can also be the perfect time of the year to strengthen the bond with your children and to find out how they’re doing.
If you’re concerned that your child may be struggling with bullying or any other issues, the suggestions listed below may provide you with great opportunities to engage, empathize and empower your child to confidently address what may be bothering him.
Here are 5 ways you can bond with your children this holiday season:
Plan a one-on-one “outing”.
Whether they show it or not, most kids appreciate special one-on-one time with a parent. If possible, try to plan something away from the house and without other siblings. If you have more than one child, try to schedule separate outings for each one. These outings don’t have to be “big.” Something as simple as going out for ice cream, hot chocolate or dinner can be great opportunities to talk without distractions and interruptions. These outings can also provide your child with a sense of safety and calm so that she feels better about sharing what is going on at school, socially and in any other area of her life you may not normally talk about.
Write a letter.
A letter can be a great way to articulate your thoughts and to ensure that you say the things that you want your child to know. Let her know that you love her and you’re proud of her. Or, acknowledge that you’ve been busier than you’d like and that you want to set aside more time to spend with him. The point of the letter should be to remind your child that you’re there for him regardless of any situation.
Give back, together.
Including your child when you donate your time and/or resources can be a great way to teach your child philanthropy skills as well as to spend time with her. There are many ways to “give back”. Ideally, consider selecting a charity or other volunteer opportunity that you and your child both enjoy, which means allowing your child to be a part of the decision-making process of what you do.
Give your child “coupons”.
In lieu of a traditional gift, give your child coupons that can be redeemed for things that he’ll enjoy such as, going to bed 30 minutes later, going out for ice cream, or playing a video game with him. You may find that monetary gifts mean less to your child than your time – whether that means taking the time to create the coupons, or giving coupons that can be redeemed for your child to do something he enjoys with you.
Don’t be afraid to say “no”.
Before tackling your “to do” list, closely evaluate each item on it. Ask yourself how important it is for each item to get done or to be completed in the timeframe that has been assigned to it. Are some of the items on your list there because you do them every year (i.e., holiday cards, baking batches of cookies, etc.)? Are there invitations on your list that you’ve accepted because you felt obligated, don’t want to look bad or are afraid to say “no”?
If there are items from your list that you don’t want to remove, but you feel that they take up too much time, consider changing when you complete them. For example, instead of sending out holiday cards in December consider sending New Year’s cards in January. Or, if holiday shopping is taking up more time than you’d like, ask friends or family if they’d be open to substituting the gift exchange for a planned activity that you can do together (perhaps after the holidays when your schedules are more available).
Clearing some of the items from your list can help free up time that can be used for bonding with your child. It can also give you time to rest and do the things that give yourself joy. When you’re stressed, it’s hard to be emotionally available for your child, which is why taking care of yourself is important too.
Please note that these ways of bonding with your child are great to do throughout the year – not just around the holidays. Try making some of these monthly, or do something different each month. The quality of time that you spend with your child can be more important than the quantity of things you do. The more quality time that you spend with your child can provide more opportunities to bond and to find out what’s going on in her life.
Danielle Matthew, the founder of The Empowerment Space and author of The Empowered Child, has been working with children and teens in various environments for over 20 years. For advice on addressing child or teen issues, bullying prevention, or to help a child who has been bullied heal, please feel free to contact Danielle Matthew from The Empowerment Space.