The holiday season is here. It’s easy to get caught up in a flurry of to-do lists and activities, which often come with a hefty dose of stress and exhaustion.
But by taking a few minutes to intentionally consider and plan, you can develop holiday traditions that feel truly authentic and reflective of your family’s values, and even teach your child important lessons in kindness, compassion, and community.
Being intentional and thoughtful allows us to get away from cultural “shoulds” in order to create holidays that offer peace and rest, build family and community relationships, and create learning and growth. Below are five ideas to foster kindness, compassion, and community with your child during the holiday season:
- Create authentic relationships. Invite a neighbor over for dessert or offer service. Slow down and take time to talk to people. What matters in their lives? What are their interests and passions?
- Learn about other’s holiday celebrations. What are the most common holiday celebrations in your community? What do those holidays mean to the participants? What similarities do you see between winter holidays? For example, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and Hanukkah all share a focus on peace, goodness, and gratitude and include rituals of sharing meals and storytelling. You can also explore how these celebrations are different from your own. Encourage your child to ask their friends how they like to celebrate their family’s holidays and what traditions they most look forward to each year. Numerous studies confirm that children develop empathy when they have opportunities to learn about others and talk openly about differences and similarities. These early experiences translate to less unconscious bias, stereotyping, bullying, or even unintended exclusion of others later.
- Explore nature. Adopt a tree and watch it change through the year. Count the birds in your yard or neighborhood. Go for a nature walk or set up a birdfeeder.
- Read books together. Children’s literature is a great way to build memories and literacy skills while emphasizing your family’s values. Three of our favorites from this year’s Growing Readers Books of Excellence include “When the Babies Came to Stay,” by Christine McDonnell and Jeanette Bradley; “If You Come to Earth,” by Sophie Blackall; and “Nana Akua Goes to School,” by Tricia Elam Walker and April Harrison.
- Model your values and think about inclusiveness. Young children learn from our
modeling and from their environment and experiences. For example, if your child sees you learning about other people and cultures, this is an influential experience. Having toys that reflect diverse cultures, reading books with diverse characters, and ensuring celebrations aren’t superficial may all seem like small things, but they make a big difference. We often unintentionally perpetuate bias by keeping children’s world homogeneous.
At Bright Horizons, we are passionate about building classroom communities where
every family feels safe, and valued, and every child has a voice. We know that treating
others with kindness, respect, and dignity is the right thing to do, and we believe it’s a
way of living that creates a broader, richer, more meaningful life. We wish you and your family a holiday season filled with warmth and light.