One of the things that parents seem to most dislike on Christmas morning is the present frenzy. To see their kids go from one present to the next, tearing paper, and casting aside one new toy for the next. It is not a pretty sight.
It is when we see issues like this – or potential issues like this – that we really need to stop, think and become proactive. What can we do as parents to change this self centered, greedy, inconsiderate behaviour?
Here are some of the things we’ve done that have become family traditions that has changed that frenzy to real family time:
— Our kids are allowed to open their stockings as soon as they wake. This is my version of conflict avoidance! LOL. The stocking is all they get till I’m ready.
— The stocking has pretty much the same stuff each year – an activity/game, a book, a notebook and pens and of course, lollies! Update: With older children my list looks like: something to do, something to read, something to eat, something that will make you smile.
— Once parents have surfaced and had their coffee/tea then we start our family day. We start our day when the parents are ready, not when the kids are ready.
— We start with reading the Christmas story. We have always read the same picture book – we tried to tell our kids that they were old enough to listen to the reading from the Bible but they liked the picture story! We pray together.
— We open one present – just from Mum and Dad to the kids (Peter and I also exchange gifts). The rest wait till after church.
— We open one present at a time, and everyone waits in anticipation till that present is opened. The idea is that we all share in the joy with the recipient as they open their gift. This ‘constraint’ carries on throughout the whole day – one present at a time – we enjoy the moment with the person who is opening the present. We may even take a moment to let the gift be played with, discovered, enjoyed for a while before we go onto the next gift. This makes present opening slow – but interactive, and gives room for appreciation and enjoyment.
— Then we have breakfast and go to church. Once we come home from church we get lunch on the table and share with the other presents.
— When the phone rings all present opening stops and the kids occupy themselves while we catch up with family on the phone. This of course may take up quite some time. Update: Since we live a long way from family we do tend to answer the phone, but as the years have gone on, we tend to chat more on Boxing Day than Christmas Day these days.
— We may have presents to open on Boxing Day – and that is okay. Because we have folk coming over for dinner each year all gift opening stops at 4.00pm so we can get the house tidied up for our guests coming at 5.00. If all presents haven’t been opened by this time, they stay under the tree and wait for tomorrow. This has happened only a few years but since the family way is to enjoy opening of a present there is no point rushing it and the kids have come to appreciate this.
So how can you slow things down? How can you teach your children to respect the thought and consideration the gift giver has put into the gift? How can you build an atmosphere that is about the other people not just the presents?
If we think about this now, a few days before Christmas, you will be able to explain a new way of doing things to your children on Christmas Day.
I reblog this post nearly every year because it has been a significant part of our family traditions. But to my mind, the most significant part has been opening one present at a time. This aspect alone has shaped our children’s hearts – and it is a delight to hear our children talk about this aspect of our Christmas Day now that they are older. And yes, we will continue with this tradition even though the children are 22, 21, 18, 16. Slowing down opening the presents gives time for each present to be enjoyed, it gives time for the family to appreciate and participate the joy in receiving such a gift. It makes presents about the other person, not about me and when I can open my presents. This is one way we can help our Christmas celebrations be about showing love to other people.
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