December seems a suitable moment to talk about the influence of the holidays on children and families. First, although this is a very busy season for most families, children probably value time with their parents more than any material objects. It really is not just a cliché that the best gift for your children is your time, whether you are reading to your child or planning family activities together. It is also valuable to protect time for your child to have ample opportunity for free play and creative imagination…overscheduling is all too easy this time of year. Even the gifts you give can encourage interaction with adults and peers. Digital media, for example, can be productive if they inspire children to actively interact in person with adults or peers. All too often digital tools and toys simply promote passive engagement which encourages neither language development nor social skills. But those devices that help develop a sense of connectedness between parents and children can prove beneficial.
Safety concerns should also be paramount this time of year: be especially careful with lit candles and plugged in lights when leaving the house, and be vigilant about access to harmful substances such as medications, toxic materials and scalding liquids. Be sensitive to emotional upset in family members at this time of year because in the midst of celebration and joy, some people can become quite sad about previous stresses or losses. Finally, in this season of purchasing gifts, this time of year is a wonderful opportunity to engage children in thinking about giving back to others and earmarking their own charitable contributions for those less fortunate. One can begin to instill in children the age-old adage that “it is nobler to give than to receive”.
Happy holidays to all!
Dr. Michael Yogman