With the holidays quickly approaching, as parents it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle as we try to prepare to check things off our never-ending lists. That’s exactly why it’s important during this crazy time to take a moment to step back and reflect on what we’re teaching our kiddos during the holidays.

— For many, the holidays involve a lot of gift giving.

It’s important to teach our kids how to show appreciation and to be consistent with expecting it each and every time someone gives them something or does something for them.

This can be taught at any age, the younger the better. Showing appreciation, even for little things, can help prevent kids from feeling entitled, as though they’re owed these gifts or kind gestures.

When setting up expectations, teach kids to pause what they’re doing and make eye contact. In a sincere voice, say thank you and be specific about what you appreciate. When age appropriate, tell the person why you appreciate the gift or gesture, how it benefits you and offer to help them out in the future, if appropriate to the situation.

This skill is important to practice regularly at home with each other to help model it for our kids. They’ll be more likely to start saying thank you on their own without prompts the more they practice. In addition, good old fashioned thank you notes seem to be a lost art. Expect your kids to take the time to sit down and write a thank you for gifts they receive. This goes a long way in making a person feel genuinely appreciated.

— It’s also important to teach our kiddos family traditions.

This is the time to establish those yearly traditions that will make for long-lasting memories. Traditions bring families together and encourage spending time together. This is what kids crave — time and positive attention from their parents.

Reflect on what you currently do — there’s no time like the present to start a new tradition. This can be done in many ways. You can spend time together decorating your home for the holidays; enjoy baking and cooking together to prepare meals and desserts; and carve out time just for family to reflect on the holidays and what it means for you and your kids.

This is also a great opportunity to give back to your community as a family by volunteering together. This can include helping serve a meal at a shelter, getting items together to donate to a food pantry or helping provide for a family in need.

When we can give back to others, it teaches our kiddos to think of others and to show concern for someone other than themselves. It can also teach them to be appreciative of what they have and to not take things for granted.

However you choose to celebrate the holidays, showing appreciation and establishing family traditions can instill life-long skills that will serve your kids in the future. For more information, visit www.boystown.org.

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Jennifer Simpson joined Boys Town in 2013 as a Family Teacher working with teenage boys and began working for the Intervention and Assessment homes in 2016 as an Intake and Compliance Specialist. In her current position Jennifer assesses youth referrals from different agencies regarding placement in the I&A homes, as well as provides resource information to consumers in need of services. Jennifer is also the mother of two young children and has a Bachelor of Social Work and a Master’s in Business Administration.

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