Top 5 Differences Between Holiday Time Now vs. When You Were a Kid: Reflections of Facebook Friends Explored.
by, Lisa Herman, PsyD, LP
Have you ever taken the time to really watch your child be in the world; watch them be present with every step they take, every item they hold and every gadget they play with? Have you stopped to truly watch them interact with their surroundings with splendid happiness and awe? No judgments, not telling them “no” or “look out”… but to really just watch them and see the world through their eyes?
Maybe you’ve done this for 30 seconds or 10 minutes once or twice, it doesn’t really matter. In any amount of time, you can see their minds working overtime, building connections to make sense of their surroundings. It’s really something.
A child’s wonder, for an adult, is probably synonymous to waking up to a brand new day with zero work to do, sipping freshly brewed coffee in bed while watching the sunrise. Ahhhh… That would be a great day. If we could just slow down and focus on what is right in front of us we would probably see the world with fresh eyes, too.
Children take in so much around them. With their little brains growing exponentially at every turn, everything they notice gets much needed attention. They are slow, and then fast, and then slow again; they are in the here-and-now, and easily distracted. It is exhilarating and exhausting at the same time for parents!
Holiday time as a child is known for many kids to be the best time of year! It’s mystical and magical and characters like Santa and Hannukah Harry are alive and festive, bringing presents and cheer to everyone. Holiday time is also a time for giving back and thinking of those whom are less fortunate. It’s family time. It’s eating time. It’s cookie time.
When we slowly (or quickly, depending on how you feel about it) grow from kid to an adult to (for many) a parent, it’s an interesting twist of events during the holiday time of year. Things seem much differently than they did when we were little. Things change: Perspective changes. Family changes.
Holiday time is also a time for giving back and thinking of those whom are less fortunate.
I recently asked several people what the biggest difference was during holiday time from when they were little to now as an adult or as a parent. Here are some major themes that emerged and a little exploration and recommendation to follow:
1.Being a single parent is much harder than growing up with married parents. Back then it was fun. Now it’s stressful.
As children, we tend to fantasize about the romantic possibilities of meeting someone, falling in love and living happily ever after. For many, this can’t be farther from reality. Sadly, with 40-50% of marriages ending in divorce in the US, the family unit looks much differently than it did decades ago. Divorce is more common and thus, more kids will find other friends in similar situations. Kids are resilient and with support and emotional guidance they can flourish through family change.
If you are a single parent, try to stay focused on what DOES work and the time you DO have together. Kids don’t remember the gifts they were given, they remember the time spent with those they love. Make new traditions. Sing songs, make videos, cook together. Use the family time wisely when you do have the kids (if you split custody/time with an ex). Focus on what is in your control. Your children will see your excitement and confidence that you got this! They’ll feel safe and comfortable with the special routines and traditions created together over the years.
2.It used to be all about me/us as kids and now it’s all about my kids. Now I have to make the traditions, which can be stressful. Holiday time as a kid was 100% about “getting” when as a parent is it all about “giving”.
The change from getting to giving is an exhausting one! All that wonder and glory as a child tends to go away with hurrying up to buy the latest gadget on Black Friday or Cyber Monday! All the kids see is that Santa brought, wrapped, and left a gift for them. You know the truth of how stressful that was to accomplish!
Not only do we want our kids to get but we really want them to become selfless, altruistic members of society and learn that not everyone’s experience is as wonderful as theirs. Volunteering and giving to those in need increases self-esteem, empathy and understanding of differences. I think our world could use a little more of that, don’t you?
3.For kids, it’s a time to rest. For parents/adults it’s the complete opposite!
Do you remember winter break from school? You could sleep, eat and watch a lot of t.v. Today’s kids are not too much different, except replace t.v. with video games or Iphones! Kids get to rest. Parents have the kid(s) home 24/7 for several days and often find themselves overloaded with more going on than during the school days. Juggling work, daycare/sitters, family in town, cooking, etc it can be very stressful and exhausting for adults and parents.
What you CAN do to engage with restful (aka: lazy) kids during break is plan out some down time and join them! Family snuggle time, taking time off work, letting the house be a tad messier. It all sounds counter-productive, but if we know that quality family time is a protective factor for parents and kids alike, then the focus needs to shift in those moments/days on what is truly important.
4.Many grew up celebrating with extended family but as adults/parents, it now is just us at holiday time.
Decades ago it seemed everyone from the same family lived relatively close by. Holidays were filled with dozens of family members piled into small homes with fun and chaos had by all. Times are different, people move away and not just a few hours away but continents away sometimes! Living farther away doesn’t allow for extended family time. The price of plane tickets and snowy roads make it difficult for the constant physical closeness once had years ago. Even if you do live close in proximity, traditions are not always the same from family member to family member.
With an increase in inter-faith marriages and agnostic adults, having only one main family tradition similar to the traditions experienced growing up can be hard for some grandparents or extended family to accept and therefore, feel uncomfortable engaging with family. For others, loved ones are no longer here, and it can be a sad time remembering those we once enjoyed celebrating with. Celebrating with a big crowd can be harder when you are grieving and just can’t bear to put on a smile.
Spending quality time with just your immediate family (whether that’s just you, you and your spouse/partner, and or your kid(s) or fur babies) is important time to have! Less chaos can mean a less stressed family with more relaxation and down time. All good things to cherish.
5.The biggest difference is the loss of innocence. As a kid, it’s full of hope. As an adult, it’s full of reflection. Yearning for days no longer.
This theme goes back to what was said in the intro above about watching the wonder as a child explores life and everything around them. As we age, we learn through experience that we can’t remain sheltered to everything bad/hard. We can get jaded or irritable as we age. We lose sight of what is right in front of us and feel anxious about the future or depressed about the past.
For many, innocence disappears as we age. With experience and growth comes wisdom, and with wisdom, we can always have hope. Even when we least expect it, something will happen that renews our faith in humanity, our family, or the world. Never give up hope. Always find those moments of innocence that will enable you to enjoy life and those you love to the best of your ability.
Although these were the top 5 themes noticed in this unscientific Facebook questionnaire, there are clearly many many more ways in which holiday time as an adult is different than it was for us when we were kids. Times change, people change, families change. Change is often times very hard. We like our routine and our rituals, our traditions and our schedules. We can choose to ride the waves of life like a ship on a river or we can choose to swim in life’s challenges like peanut butter; never really getting anywhere and feeling stuck.
Kids will learn what we teach them. Kids will feel what we emotional offer them. It’s our job as adults/parents to help our kids grow up with wisdom, wonder, and flexibility. Holiday time can be a fabulous time of year to help them learn just that, no matter your life circumstance.
Now go bake some sugar cookies and enjoy watching your kid(s) eat the sprinkles from the jar!