As the holiday season approaches, it’s time to think about ways to create meaningful, stress-free celebrations. The best place to start is with ourselves. Put quite simply, it’s about redefining “perfect.” Letting go of our previous expectations and creating a holiday that truly fits our family and reflects our family values will greatly reduce stress.

When our priority is to create a celebration that involves our children in a way that fosters their confidence, their importance in the family, the spirit of family and the meaning of the event being celebrated, then we plan and pace the process to meet our children’s needs, realizing that nothing is more important than this spirit.

When we remain relaxed with the end results and open to surprises and novel options, we enjoy the entire process and our children feel valued.

When we plan activities for our children based on their interests and abilities, they are able to be more involved and use the skills they are proud to share. They feel successful, appreciated, engaged in the process and eager to be involved in future celebrations.

By giving thought to these details, the pace will naturally be slower — slowing to the pace of children.

The following are some thoughts for involving children in the celebration process.

  • When a meal is involved, children can contribute by:
  • Helping plan the menu
  • Writing the shopping list
  • Choosing items at the grocery store
  • Helping with the food preparations
  • Polishing the silverware
  • Setting the table, including folding the napkins in special ways and creating special name cards (stickers help!)
  • Creating a flower arrangement or centerpiece using items gathered on a nature walk
  • Creating a menu or a program
  • When guests are involved, children can be the “greeter”:

  • Greeting guests at the door and inviting them in
  • Showing guests where to place their coats
  • When gifts are involved, children enjoy:

  • Creating handmade cards
  • Decorating a framed photo or piece of artwork with shells, buttons or rocks
  • Baking cookies or small loaves of bread
  • Stringing beads to create necklaces, bracelets or napkin rings
  • Building bird or squirrel feeders using pine cones
  • Sewing a felt purse or pillow
  • Rolling beeswax candles
  • Helping fill a food basket
  • Building closure and reflection into celebrations is a lovely way to extend the holidays and plant the seed of an ongoing tradition. Cleaning the house together, washing and folding table cloths, polishing the candlesticks prior to packing them and creating a book of photos fosters the satisfying feeling of completion. Asking, “What did you enjoy about our celebration? What should we continue? What might we change?” gives all family members the opportunity to be heard and contribute to ongoing meaningful celebrations that evolve with time.

    Wishing you many memorable family celebrations.

    Ann Messick is the SunGarden Montessori Children’s House administrator in West Linn.

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