By Tara Bone, Contributing Writer
AFTER THE BIRTH of our fourth son, I happily answered the typical questions: Yes, we have all boys; yes, I’m OK with that (truly); and yes, there are 10 years between our youngest and new baby. All usual questions, until one random question caught me off guard: “How are you going to juggle holidays with such an age gap?” Gulp … I had no idea.
I started to wonder how I could create a magical holiday for each of my boys when they range from ages 0 to 16. I was confused and sleep deprived, so I turned to the experts: other amazing moms. What I learned didn’t disappoint and may help other parents wondering how to juggle different ages during the holidays.
Tip #1: No one is too old to experience holiday magic
Elizabeth Anderson of Logan has nine children, ranging in age from 6 to 25. She’s found that it’s a misconception that older children can’t fully enjoy the holidays. She encourages parents to get kids away from distractions and get them engaged in holiday traditions. “After they get started, they enjoy it, even if they groan at first,” she said. The older Anderson children also help their younger siblings in holiday activities. Elizabeth says this retains holiday wonder for the entire family.
Tip #2: Traditions are key
All moms I talked to share the belief that family traditions are essential for happy holiday experiences for every age. Debbie Stahmann of North Logan is a busy mom with three children, ages 13, 15, and 20. Debbie’s family loves holiday traditions and says traditions create family unity. Debbie recommends that even if a child isn’t eager to participate, parents should still plan the activity, extend an invitation, and keep in mind that the child may just do part of it. Debbie’s advice: “Keep doing it and forge on!” For example, their family bakes a lot during the holidays and Debbie has found that “food reaches everyone in the family, including teenage boys!”
Tip #3: Keep it simple and play to your strengths
At this point, you could feel guilt (I started to). Especially if your kids are older and you fear you’re too late. Holiday traditions take planning, time, and effort. But before you feel mom guilt, realize that you’ve probably been doing more than you realize. Many holiday traditions can fit into one of five categories: decorations, activities/crafts, outings, food, and service.
Think about the little things you do in each category — they count! If you want to expand, add a few more. But remember that they don’t have to be elaborate.
Before adding more, Debbie advises that moms should build holiday traditions based on their strengths. For example, if you don’t like being in the kitchen, don’t make yourself crazy baking with the family. She cautions, “Traditions can be easy and fit with who we are. Our kids can sense if we are happy … if we are doing it out of guilt or pressure, they can feel it.”
The bottom line: It’s not fancy gifts that create holiday magic. It’s the unity and joy we feel year after year doing traditions that bond our families and create lasting memories.
Traditions from our mom experts:
• Decorate your home; this becomes sentimental for the kids
• Take a Thanksgiving walk; collect leaves for leaf rubbing.
• Explore your community for Christmas lights and decorations.
• Have a snowman building contest.
• Enjoy some fun around the table: Thanksgiving bingo, Mad Libs, or interactive app games.
• Create a Thankful Tree: Make leaves from scrapbook paper and write what you are thankful for.
• Let your kids make Thanksgiving table settings/name place cards.
• Hide a pair of Christmas pajamas in the house for each family member to find on Christmas Eve.
• Keep a Christmas journal to write in every year.
• Serve traditional foods for holiday meals.
• Participate in Sub-for-Santa.
• Donate to an Angel Tree.
• Make and donate humanitarian kits.
• Make and deliver goodies to neighbors.
• Read favorite Christmas stories every night through December.