by Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD
Want to give children something truly special for the holidays? Let them help you with your Christmas tasks.
I will never forget the Christmas when I took my four-year-old son on the Polar Express train ride, to visit Santa at his local hangout, to the tree lighting ceremony, and to the Christmas story time at the library.
His dad and I chose the perfect workbench present for his construction-loving phase and stuffed his stocking with play dough, Spiderman toothbrushes, and glow sticks.
We let him open each chocolate door of the Advent calendar, listen to Christmas music, read Christmas stories, and make a jillion ornaments out of pinecones, egg cartons, and glitter.
However, when I asked him what his favorite part of the holiday was, he answered, “Helping Grandma set the table for Christmas dinner.”
Like us, young children love to feel useful. They want to feel needed and important. They treasure the chance to be of service or make a meaningful contribution.
When I look back at the season, I can see that my son lit up the most not on Santa’s lap, but when he helped Daddy shovel snow. His eyes twinkled the brightest not when he was tearing open a new Lego set, but when he was carefully cutting paper or ripping tape to help me wrap presents. Some of his favorite moments seemed to be when we let him put stamps on our holiday cards, bake cookies, water the Christmas tree, or hang lights on our bushes.
Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD, mom to three, is a psychotherapist for individuals and couples in Chicago’s western suburbs. She specializes in counseling for parents of babies and young children. www.erinleyba.com or email@example.com