The winter months can be somewhat dreary. The post-holiday letdown of Christmas can wreak havoc on young minds and hearts, as the much anticipated Christmas cheer is now over. Kids (and us parents) are more tired after the holidays. That pep-in-their-step seems amiss once the mystery of what’s wrapped under the Christmas tree has ended. And let’s face it, come January, the majority of us are coming down from a month full of sugar rushes and candy cane sweet tooths.
January, although the clean-slated beginning to another year, can leave our kiddos feeling uninspired, uncreative and in dire need of some wintertime pick-them-ups. Heck, I think we all could use those.
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret about what kids need the very most during this cold and hibernating time of year after Christmas. Our kids desperately need a blanket.
Nope, this isn’t a joke or some funny riddle. It’s not a “Why’d the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side” type of obvious statement. Do kiddos need an extra blanket on their beds at night during the winter months? Sure! But they need to be wrapped in so much more than the 40” x 60” sherpa you just brought home from Target.
What Do Kids Need Most After the Holidays?
1. Kids need to be blanketed with protection at this time of year.
They need to feel secure. They need to know that even though the family time that so often gets ramped up in December is over, those precious moments of connection and community still remain. So play the family games that you did during your holiday break. Make cookies, bake bread, and spend time in the kitchen, even after the Christmas guests have all gone home. Teach your children that family time is valued every month of the year, every season of their lives.
2. Kids need to feel wrapped in love.
The holidays often (not always) bring out the best in us. We are more giving, more thoughtful, and more patient—including with our kiddos. It’s as if we all get sprinkled with Christmas cheer from Thanksgiving to Christmas. But how easy is it to shake off after the majesty of the holidays, come New Year’s? Our children need to experience pre-, during-, and post-holiday love and consistency. We go out of our way to make the holidays special for everyone. We stoke the fire on Christmas morning only to keep it unlit the remainder of the year. Why do we put forth so much effort for one month and then fizzle out once the frenzy of the holidays is over? Our kiddos deserve the best of us throughout the entire year. I liken this to what I refer to as “vacation mommy.” I don’t want to be one way when life is on cruise control (or on vacation) and then be a spastic mess the remainder of the year. Same goes for Christmastime. I don’t want my kids to recognize that “holiday mommy” is here for the festivities and then mysteriously disappears up the chimney with Santa Claus after December 25 has passed.
Of course we are not perfect and cannot always be our most gracious and generous selves. But there are always bills to be paid, things to get done and closets to organize. It’s our job to wrap our kiddos in love so much that they do not question how we feel about them—no matter the time of year. So have a fire more often. Make space and time for snuggling on the couch on a random Tuesday. And create holiday-type experiences with your littles in March.
3. Kids need to be nestled with affection.
Our children need to feel that the love they give and receive is not something they must earn or work for. They must feel that our affection is there for the taking, no matter the time of year, time of day, or whether they would have been on the “good” list or the “naughty” list this past Christmas.
4. Kids need to feel shielded from the cold of this world.
Our children need protection from the bitterness of their surroundings for as long as possible. They need to feel protected by the ones they see as their protectors: us. We need to guard their innocence, encourage their development and help establish their confidence. We often go out of our way to make the holidays “magical.” But do you know what I think? I think kids experience more wonder and awe when we engage their curiosity in nature together; when we listen—truly, uninterruptedly, knee bent down and looking eye-to-eye—to the stories they share. And when we, as crazy busy parents, actually put down our phones and interact with them doing what they want to do, not simply dragging them around to check off all of our life’s to-do lists. It’s so easy for us to go WAY over-the-top to bring the wonderment of the holidays to life for our littles. But what would happen if we created that experience the rest of the year? I have a feeling we would have kiddos who saw the world full of possibilities.
5. Kids need to be enveloped in opportunity.
When we buy our kiddos the most coveted item on their Christmas wish list, why do we then muzzle their enthusiasm and interaction with it once the present is torn open? Didn’t we buy it for them in the first place? Why do we strive to give our children everything they hope and dream for over the holidays, but then try to quiet their passion for why they wanted it in the first place? “Don’t make a mess with your paints, sweetheart.” “Play that guitar in your room, dear.” “Don’t use the remote-controlled car in the house, son.” How many times have we given a gift, one full of engagement and creativity and fun, only to limit (or sometimes forbid) our kids’ use of it?
Friends, this could easily be a “Dear Jaime” cry to change to myself. I am guilty of so much (if not all) of these. I am way off-balance when it comes to creating an out-of-this-world holiday experience for my kids when my efforts the rest of the year could be considered lacking. Some days I would say my efforts are embarrassing. I bought my girls guitars for Christmas this year, but do you know how many times I have let them just wail on the strings since then? Not much. I try to quiet their creativity because it is loud, or because “I can’t hear myself think.” Isn’t that a strange saying anyway? I signed my family up to do every Christmas-y event but what about the random Saturday in January? Or April?
After the holidays, my kids have gotten used to having a laundry list of fun activities to do. And then when I tell them that we have nothing going on for the next three weekends and that the neighbors can’t come over to play, they look at me as if they were suddenly dropped into a new home. The home they resided in during December was full of “Yes’s” and “Sure thing’s” and “Go, go, go’s.” I’m pretty sure they look at me as if I am another mother because all of a sudden, my wild adventures that I can’t wait to pack into our December weekends come to a screeching halt come January.
I propose more balance throughout the year. I call for more game nights in August and fun adventures in May. I challenge us (myself included) to create memorable, adventurous and meaningful experiences all twelve months rather than saving them for the twelve days of Christmas. Let’s blanket our children with stability, security and a sense of wonder during these post-holiday months … and beyond!