5 Holiday Teachable Moments for Your Kids

5 Holiday Teachable Moments for Kids | www.TheHeavyPurse.comThe Christmas countdown has officially begun, folks. As impossible as it may seem, we are 24 days away from the big day. I’ve got my Christmas list and I’m definitely checking it twice! How about you? The holidays is such a busy time with lots of moving parts from baking holiday treats, shopping, wrapping gifts, school activities and all the various festivities that make the season special. And intermixed between everything we do in the next 24 days, there are lots of great teachable moments for our kids too.

Magical Christmas Lessons

I’ve always been a huge proponent of finding teachable moments to help instill family values in children. Kids respond better to seeing and doing, rather than just being told, which is too often our default. When kids are a part of the lesson, it actually stops feeling like one to them. Make sure to take advantage of the ample teaching opportunities Christmas offers us, including the following lessons:

1. Emphasize Family Traditions

Christmas presents may be a young child’s top priority, but as they grow older, the lure of gifts begin to fade and are replaced by a greater appreciation of family traditions. The girls are still young enough where the excitement of opening their presents on Christmas morning is what they look forward to the most, but I can already see the shift beginning to happen.

One tradition we have is making orange marmalade. The girls are not big fans of orange marmalade, but they look forward to making it because it signals the start of our holiday traditions. I know some day the girls will carry on some of our family traditions with their children while they create some new ones too.

Your To-Do: What are your family’s holiday traditions? If you don’t have any, then consider creating some. They don’t need to be expensive or difficult, instead they should be things you enjoy and can do every holiday season. Some ideas include: baking treats to give to family and friends, going sledding or ice-skating, watching a favorite holiday movie or making gingerbread homes.

2. Appreciation of Delayed Gratification

An inability to delay gratification creates financial trouble for many people. Christmas is a surprisingly great time to show your kids how good delayed gratification can actually feel. Marketers do a particularly excellent job of getting kids to “want” during the holidays. It’s up to us to help our kids differentiate between hype and actual desire, then to help them be patient until Christmas morning.

The wait to see if Santa or Grandpa and Grandma gave them their desired gifts may have felt torturous, but there was a significant payoff. They still received the gifts they desired most without having to use any of their hard-earned money, an important lesson for them to embrace – knowing what they truly desire and working/saving towards it.

Your To-Do: Be sure to help them think through how to best use any money/gift cards they received over Christmas, including knowing when to save for something they truly desire. Be sure the you demonstrate or model this behavior too.

"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "does not come from a store.  Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

3. The Joy of Sharing with Others

While we definitely give back throughout the year, our Christmas giving is always a bit extra special to us. Because so much of Christmas has become commercial, it is more important than ever to make a conscious effort to focus on sharing. We counterbalance consumerism with giving in our home.

Your To-Do: How will you give back this holiday season? We typically adopt a family and the girls love helping purchasing new gifts, but they also personally donate some of their own clothes and toys to share with the kids too. They give generously, because as big as the recipients’ smiles are, their smiles are even bigger. However you decide to share, whether it’s money, gifts or time, make sure to involve your kids in your holiday giving plans.

4. The Power of Renewal

Much of our attention is rightly focused on Christmas, but what comes afterwards: a new year with new goals. Don’t wait until January (or later) to start conversations around family and individual goals. Review the past year’s achievements and failures and how you’ll use any lessons learned when it comes to setting new goals.

It’s easy to get stuck on the things didn’t go as planned, but that’s also the beauty of goal-setting. They are always being renewed and re-calibrated. We don’t want to ignore past failures, but we also don’t need to dwell on them. Learn and move forward, that’s my motto and it’s an important lesson for kids to experience too.

Your To-Do: I know it’s a busy time, but make a point to talk about goals during a meal. Celebrate accomplishments, commiserate over failures while emphasizing learnings and start planning for the future. Remind kids that goal-setting is an ongoing process.

5. How Blessed We Truly Are

Gratitude is something that has played a huge role in my life. It’s very easy to get caught up in what’s not working and forget about our many #blessings. Besides celebrating the birth of Jesus, Christmas is a time of love and acknowledging our good fortune in the Ryan household. It’s easy to adopt a humbug attitude to all the consumerism or forget the true meaning with the hustle and bustle of the season, so I encourage you to slow down. Breathe. And reflect upon your many blessings this holiday season.

Your To-Do: For the month of December, have everyone share a blessing or something they are thankful for every day during a meal. Try your best to avoid repeating the same blessing and help open your children’s eyes and hearts to all the wonderful things in their lives.

Don’t Miss Out on These Teachable Moments

You certainly don’t want to take away that sense of magic and joy that comes with the holiday season, but also don’t fear taking advantage of the many teachable moments it offers. These lessons are gifts and their value will long outlast their counterparts found underneath the tree this year. The truth is these lessons are what help create the magic.

What do you look forward to most during the holidays? What other teachable moments have you taught your kids over the holidays?


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December 1, 2014  •  28 Comments  •  Christmas

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  1. Monday, December 1st, 2014
    I love that quote from the Grinch!! The holidays really do give us so many teachable moments for our children. After Will writes out his Christmas list, we typically have him select the toys he will donate to others and we also ask him to give his own money as well to either church or a charity. I think it's always easiest for children when they see their parents do the same things as well, so it's usually a family affair.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
      It's a great quote and so true. We need to constantly remind ourselves of it (myself included) because it's easy to get caught up in the hype of Christmas. I absolutely agree - it's so much easier for kids to give when they see their parents do it with such joy. They don't want to miss out on experiencing that joy themselves.
  2. Monday, December 1st, 2014
    "...the lure of gifts begin to fade..." I was shocked this year when we suggested to our kids that we take a family vacation instead of buying them presents. I thought they'd balk at the idea of not receiving anything. They didn't object which makes me think they are learning that gifts aren't everything.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
      Love it, Brian! That is so fantastic! A great idea and something your kids will remember for years while presents are quickly forgotten. One of those great ironies, so excited to open them, so easily forgotten. But vacations - I remember those very clearly! It's great that your kids are learning at such a young age what really matters.
  3. Monday, December 1st, 2014
    My step-son is now seven and come to think of it, he never asks us for what he wants as a Christmas gift! He is happy to accept whatever we give him and hopefully he continues to exude that kind of positive spirit. We will definitely do our best to reinforce it. The holidays are definitely a key time for us teach our children the most important of life lessons.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
      That is so sweet, Kassandra. A lot of kids are much more demanding, unfortunately. :) He sounds like a great kid with a big heart, much like his stepmom! The holidays provide such ample opportunities to teach our kids valuable life and money lessons.
  4. Monday, December 1st, 2014
    I love the call to actions here - especially showing gratitude by expressing your blessings. Remembering what's important this time of year absolutely combats the consumerism all around us.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
      Consumerism runs rampant over the holidays but I am determined to not let it ruin my favorite time of the year. Gift-giving is fun, but it's not the sole focus of Christmas. And be grateful and giving are good ways to remind our children (and us too) that it means so much more.
  5. Monday, December 1st, 2014
    Love this list Shannon! We're big on the creating traditions aspect as that really helps cement the time spent together as a very important part of the holidays. It's neat to see the kids get excited about it which only makes us want to do it more. We've done many of the other things as well and usually each year as a way to help them think beyond the consumerist mindset to the holidays.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
      It is really heartwarming to see the girls get excited about the family traditions and even more so as those traditions start to mean more than presents. We get so caught up in finding the perfecting gift, but we forget how quickly it is forgotten. But family traditions, those memories can last a lifetime.
  6. Monday, December 1st, 2014
    Great tips as always. I think emphasizing family traditions is very important to continue the traditions alive.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
      Thanks, Aldo! One tradition we carry on today from my childhood is making gingerbread homes. Some day, many years from now, I look forward to making them with my grandchildren. ;)
  7. Monday, December 1st, 2014
    I am a firm believer that you have to create memories and traditions to pass down. I think this stemmed from being away so much from my family for so many years. Due to my deployment two years ago me and my daughter had Thanksgiving and Christmas in July. We even put up the tree and wrapped gifts. With the Christmas music playing and the yum-yum food I learned that day it's what you make of the holiday and not the holiday itself. Yes....looking forward to Christmas this year.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
      First, Petrish, thank you for your service. Secondly I love this sentiment - "it’s what you make of the holiday and not the holiday itself." So true. The holiday is just another day. It's how we choose to celebrate and give it meaning that makes it special. And that's more than just gifts.
  8. Monday, December 1st, 2014
    I think it's really hard for kids to know just how lucky they are. I talk all the time about how some people don't have the things we do, but I'm not sure it sinks in. I think charity and giving to others is something we all should do this time of year. Hopefully, it will sink in at some point.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
      It's probably sinking in more than you realize, Kim. From the things you've shared about your daughter, she is a bright girl! She pays attention and she's noticing what you do, including the giving you do during the holiday season.
  9. Monday, December 1st, 2014
    Good lessons Shannon! I don't particularly like Christmas and I think a big part of that is I have no particular tradition with my family. I'm pretty jealous of people who do! I do usually do some kind of toys for tots or adopt a family program and this year is no different!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
      You've mentioned before that Christmas isn't one of your favorite holidays and it makes sense that a lack of family tradition plays a role in your dislike. I'm sorry to hear that. I've always like the holiday but it definitely grew in importance after we had the girls are started focusing more on creating family traditions. I'm glad you did create a few traditions of your own too!
  10. Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
    I feel very grateful that my kids are so appreciative of things we do for them. They are also very giving and display that all throughout the year- not just during the holidays. Well, at least my 5-year-old is. =)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
      It is so nice when kids appreciate rather than feel entitled, isn't it? Love that girls display a giving heart throughout the year. My girls have really embraced giving too and it really makes me proud to see how much they enjoy it. And I'm sure your youngest will grow to love giving more too. Taylor took a little longer to find that joy in it too! LOL!
  11. Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
    Hi Shannon,

    These are great lessons to teach our kids. We have always kept up with our traditions and I love when the kids talk about it and ask questions about how the tradition began.

    Sharing with others is very important. I know I have said it before but I've always loved your idea of adopting a family. I was listening to a radio station one morning and I finally found where I can do that too, so we'll be doing that for the first time and making it a part of our tradition as well.

    Great tips as always Shannon! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving! Have a great night!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 4th, 2014
      You are going to love it, Corina. It is one of our favorite holiday traditions and the girls are always so excited to give the gifts to the family. I can't wait to hear how it goes! :)
  12. Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014
    I teach my kids to always say "Thank you" or showing gratitude to every person and to whatever they receive even it is small or a simple act of kindness. I explain to them why showing gratitude is really important in a way that they'd like to do like play or they feel like it's a natural thing to do.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 4th, 2014
      Love it, Jayson! You're doing them a huge favor by teaching them about gratitude and helping them appreciate, rather than feel entitled.
  13. Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014
    I love this list, and couldn't agree more with #5 and practicing gratitude. I've been saying 'thankful' prayers at the beginning of each day (well, when I remember) and it's amazing what a couple minutes of expressing my thanks can do to my day. Love your list, Shannon, and I hope you and your family are having a wonderful December so far!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 4th, 2014
      Thanks, Anna! Isn't it amazing how much of a different just a few minutes of giving thanks can make to your day? It's why I love gratitude so much. We're having a great December and hope you and B are too. :) (and, of course, little Flash too!)
  14. Thursday, December 4th, 2014
    Great tips Shannon! I love all these things you mention. We have Christmas traditions in my family and I love doing them every year, even now that my brother and I are adults. I particularly love giving gifts to my family. It's not that I want to open my gifts, but I look forward to Christmas morning so I can see how they react to their gifts instead. I love seeing how they look excited or thrilled that I remembered way back in March or April when they off-handedly said "I wish I had X,Y, or Z". Those are the types of gifts I love to get them, the ones they are least expecting, but I know they could use. :) We also adopt a family or a child each year and give gifts from the stores and also things from our homes that we no longer need. It's the best feeling ever!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 4th, 2014
      I'm the same way, Kayla. Nothing makes me happier than watching people open up gifts, especially gifts that they can't afford to treat themselves with under normal circumstances. It makes me feel so good. It truly is the best feeling when you can help a family in need celebrate Christmas. Seeing their joy is what makes Christmas for me.
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    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan