What are Your Emotions Teaching Children about Christmas?
“...children look to their parents to know how to feel and how to respond.” Daniel J. Siegel. p. 18-2
The Holidays are an emotionally charged time of year for children.
For some it is a wonderful time of the year, full of expectation, love, family and joy. While for others the season is understood through emotions of fear, sadness, disappointment and loneliness.
A child's emotional understanding of Christmas is developed by watching their primary care givers at this time of year. Daniel Siegel describes this as social referencing, children look to their parent's to determine how they should emotionally respond.
This means that as parents our emotional responses will colour how our children experience and remember Christmas.
If we stress about money, getting the perfect gift, cooking, and visiting family, our children will experience Christmas through emotions tainted with stress and they are at risk of finding Christmas stressful for the rest of their lives.
When our Christmas preparations are about creating time for positive relationships, when we create a Christmas experience within our budget and enjoy ourselves, this is the foundation upon which our children will build positive Christmas traditions.
As I talk and share holiday stories Siegel's social referencing holds true. Many of the individuals who down play Christmas or describe it as stressful found their childhood Christmases to be this way. They described parents fighting over money, Christmas parties with too much drinking and extended family functions where people fought.
For people who look forward to Christmas there were stories of making cookies with parents or grandparents, family traditions around decorating the Christmas tree and large family gatherings with laughter, singing and joy.
Money or lack thereof did not factor into whether the experience was a good or bad experience, it was about emotional behaviors of their parents.
Children are held hostage at this time of year. All around them advertising and social media tells them they should be happy and at home; they may or may not know this to be true. Pleasure and fun within the context of strong relationship is what happy Christmas memories are made of - not the gifts.
This Christmas how much of your preparation time is about joy within family relationships?