There is so much to do at this time of year, but we know that, for young children, less really is more. How can we choose activities that bring meaningful experiences to our children without overwhelming them? Anticipation is a good place to start. It is almost as good as the big event itself, or for some it is even the best part. We can share the joy of anticipation with our children by taking a small amount of time each day to recognize the holiday season. We can think of this whole season as the celebration. A few moments each day help to usher in the mood and take some of the pressure off of doing everything in the few days surrounding Christmas. This can be simple: a Christmasy good morning song, opening the door of an advent calendar, or lighting the candles on the advent wreath. See here, or my post from last week, for a few ideas to consider around the traditional Waldorf Advent wreath (it’s not too late to do something simple with it!).
Advent is a time of joyful anticipation, but it is also a challenging time. We are often tired, stressed, and busy. It is important for our young children that we create plenty of down time for them. Above all, this is a time for us to focus on togetherness. We can find small ways to model for our children the gestures of the season: gratitude, generosity, peacefulness, and love. We can also find ways for them to join us in giving, for example: bringing a gift to a loved one, visiting friends and family, volunteering to help people in need (for older children), or making gifts or cards. It is a nice time to help our children experience the joyful feeing of giving.
There are many ways in which we can encourage our children to be their best selves in the spirit of the season, but the most fundamental of these is for us to nurture our own best selves. This is easier to do when we allow ourselves some down time too. To allow children to really have time for the anticipation and time to process all they experience, it is better to think of one or two traditions that mean something to you, and then to do those whole-heartedly. Doing those one or two things well will mean much more to your children than doing many different activities.
For many children, Christmas is intimately tied to the joy of receiving gifts. Witnessing this is a huge joy for parents and family members too. This is another area where less is more. If we recognize that young children process the world at a different pace than adults, we can see that gift-opening is the most meaningful for young children when they have the time to do it slowly and to enjoy each one. It can be spread out over time to give the child more time with each gift. Gift-opening can become a sort of mania when too much happens at once. Then the child is only concerned with receiving more and not with recognizing what has been received. Initially, it can be a challenge to find ways to do less, but the end result is less stress for everyone.
The article below gives many more ideas for helping young children get the most of this busy season.
Written by Heidi Drexel, Parent-Child Teacher and Outreach Coordinator at MWS