This is the time of year that we shower children with gifts. This year, let’s take a few moments to focus on the greatest gifts money cannot buy.
Children crave time together with loved ones. They’re hungry for positive attention. Kids seek some type of affirmation of love, of our pleasure when we spend moments with them. We mistakenly throw toys and electronics at them, thinking that will make them happy, and then we wonder why they’re whining minutes later.
It’s not the things that matter; it’s what we do with them that counts. Do we sit down on the floor and play the game, even once? Do we watch as they try the scooter down the block? Do we delight in the doll?
More presence. Less presents. Time is the one gift that can never be replaced.
Ask your child what he would like to do with you this holiday. Some children would love to watch a ball game, others to go ice skating, paint pottery, experience rock climbing or even build a model airplane together. Whatever it is, when you give the gift of time be sure you give with all your heart. Don’t seem disinterested. Turn off your phone. Don’t go grudgingly. You will never regret time spent together. The memory will remain with your child forever.
Sometimes the easiest gifts are the ones we find most difficult. We smile when we cradle a newborn in our arms or when we’re having a fun night out. But parenting brings challenges. As our children grow we are stressed and pulled in so many directions and we forget to smile. The joy is missing.
Even if you don’t really feel it, give your child a smile. Smile when you see him in the morning and when he comes home from school. Brighten your home, bring sunshine into the room. Show that you are happy to see him.
When my mother was a little girl in Bergen Belsen, my Zayda told her that she has a very important mission.
“Here? But I am just a child?”
“Smile at each and every person,” my grandfather said. “When they will see your smile you will give them hope. You will make their hearts sing.”
My Zayda’s wise words speak to us all. If a child’s smile could bring light to such a terribly dark world, imagine the joy each of us can create today.
3. Model an Attitude of Gratitude
Stop the complaining. Stop comparing lives. Stop awfulizing.
While it’s true that we have no choices about the situations we sometimes face, we can choose how we will react. Our children watch us. They hear our griping. They internalize our discontent. They mimic our attitudes. What are we teaching them?
Show me a happy person and I will show you a person who appreciates life. Gratitude means we develop a positive eye, an ‘ayin tovah’. We focus on that which is good instead of that which gets us down. We either allow ourselves to fall into a drama pit of never ending problems or we pick ourselves up and discover the secret to resilience.
Developing a spirit of optimism is one of the greatest gifts to give a child. A can-do attitude, an eye for all that we have been blessed with, instead of constantly comparing and feeling that we fall short.
Children need roots. They need to feel that they belong. When we give our children an identity we bestow our children with a solid sense of self.
Our culture forges an identity with the brands that we wear, the type of sneakers on our feet, the cars that we drive. When our children feel that they are not keeping up with the Goldstein’s, there’s a sense of inferiority. Sadly, their self-confidence suffers.
Traditions, joyful rituals, pride in our legacy and heritage teaches children the true source of a greater self. It is not our ‘things’ but rather our spiritual dynasty that reveals our inner wealth. Holidays and traditions give children time together as a family as well as a positive connection to their roots. Acknowledging values reinforces convictions that we hold dear.
5. Safe Spaces
Family means loyalty, kindness, sacrifice, and giving. Our children feel loved when they feel safe. Homes where sarcasm, unkindness, selfishness and criticism flourish do not allow our sons and daughters to connect. We must live love. Bonding between siblings, between parents and children cannot happen if children feel shamed. Constant criticism tears children down.
One of the greatest gifts we can give as parents creating a home filled with compassion and gratitude, forgiveness and connection, peace and holiness.
This Hanukkah give your family the greatest gifts. The gifts of your heart will speak to them long past this holiday season.