This Christmas, parents and teens need to cherish other people!
I was in the mall yesterday and noticed the frenzy with which everyone was shopping, looking for the best gifts for loved ones. We get so stressed out shopping, putting up lights, and setting up the perfect Christmas dinner. Unfortunately sometimes we lose ourselves in the hustle and bustle of it all and it becomes one big season of anxiety and depression, instead of joy.
I watched an episode of Blackish last night, with the dad Andre, played by Anthony Anderson, fighting so hard to become the first “Black Santa.” He got so involved in being Santa that he forgot to buy the children gifts. He eventually made it right, but how often do we try to have the best Christmas lights or tree or gifts, that we forget to actually show love to the people around us?
The holidays are stressful enough as is, and we need to take time to cherish the people around us, or Christmas day arrives with everyone in a bad mood, which takes away from the joy of Christmas.
Even as families gather to celebrate, there is always that family member or friend who unfortunately gets on everyone’s nerves. How do you respond to that? Do you respond in kind and give as much as you get, messing up the day for everyone? I’ve learned that “hurt people hurt others.” So perhaps this would be a good time to respond with good cheer and kindness. Cherish your relatives and friends. You may not necessarily enjoy all your relatives but be civil and enjoy the day. Remember your teens are watching you. If you respond with grace they will learn and do the same.
1. Take time to reward the people we take for granted all year.
This is the season to say thanks to our teens’ teachers, the people we work with, the postman, the sanitation workers who pick up garbage etc. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a gift. A card or a note will do just fine. People love receiving notes telling them how we appreciate all the things they do for us year round. Take the time to smile at your colleagues and acknowledge their influence in your life. I heard one counsellor talk about how one of the teens in her charge left notes for the hotel staff when they went on a school trip. This child had obviously learned this from her family. The counsellor was so touched she informed all the parents about it. What a blessing that teen must have been to the hotel staff.
2. Be civil as you shop.
I must admit, I’m one of the shoppers always in a hurry, and wishing the person in front of me didn’t quite have so much stuff. My children always remind me to stop being so impatient. But people can be so hostile during the Christmas season. They fight over parking spots and get upset when other shoppers are “wasting time” using coupons etc. Not to mention some of the rampage that occurs during sales. People have actually lost their lives from fighting over seemingly good deals. I read a Guideposts article about a shopper who was upset because the person in front of her had so many coupons. When she got to the counter, the attendant talked about how she admired the lady because she was shopping for the shelter. You don’t know the circumstances of other people so let’s not judge them. Even if it takes a few extra minutes, let’s try to be patient and have a good attitude. I will definitely be watching my behavior otherwise my teens will certainly correct me. They must have learned to do as I say even if I don’t always live it myself.
3. Set boundaries for yourself.
As much as you want to enjoy the season and spend time with family and friends, set limits for yourself. Sometimes, there are so functions to attend, so many charities to volunteer for that you leave very little room to sit and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. Set boundaries for yourself. Decide early what you want to participate in and how much you can help. But getting involved in everything so that you end up shouting at your teens because you are tired is counterproductive.
Set boundaries for your teens as well. Some teens will decide they don’t want to hang out with family and just stay in their rooms with their smart phones, or they may choose to hang out with friends instead. If this was a preplanned trip you agreed with, then great. But, if it’s just to get away then they need to learn how to participate and show goodwill to all. Once they realize their presence is appreciated, they actually relax and enjoy themselves.
4. Empathize with others.
Christmas can be a difficult time for people who have lost family or friends during the year. Families with relatives away for various reasons miss them and may not be in a celebratory mood. As much as you may want to cheer others up, sometimes all people need is an understanding shoulder to lean on. Love the people around you, but respect their space. Teens who have lost family members especially miss them during the Christmas season and it’s okay for them to have those feelings. Don’t try to brush away the sorrow and pain. Acknowledge and be present. That is all that is needed sometimes.
This Christmas, cherish the people around you. Enjoy the time you have with family and friends. Take time to acknowledge the people in your life, who provide a service and don’t always get a thank you for it. Help out when you can, but don’t over stretch yourself and empathize with those who need nothing more than a hug.