As you prepare your home, family and calendar for the holidays, take some time to set the intention not simply to survive — but to thrive during the holiday hoopla. Celebrating holidays is a chance to share family rituals and create new traditions and meaningful memories with your children. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to experience the magic of the holidays through the eyes of your child.
As Director of Admissions and long-time Montessori Educator at Rogers Park Montessori School, Kristen Mark suggests taking cues from the Montessori educational philosophy to create meaningful experiences with your child. That starts with scaling back adult expectations to match the needs of your child.
“A Montessori education follows the child. Some ideas and traditions can sound great, and some children can handle going to a concert or being part of a crowd, while others can’t,” Mark says. “It’s so important to resist that pressure from our culture and know what your child can manage. It starts with knowing your child.”
What expectations do you have for the holidays?
“To some extent, we all have a fantasy of what the holidays should look and feel like,” Mark admits. “In the Instagram era, there’s enormous pressure to do everything and appear to be doing it all and having so much fun. There’s that expectation for everything to be memorable or special. As humans, we just can’t do that.”
Instead, resist the external comparisons and pressure to live up to what you think other families are doing. Recall your own cherished childhood memories and share these stories with your child. “When parents dream of having a child, they have a dream of sharing these traditions and I think young children love to hear these stories, too,” Mark says.
Ideas for thriving through the holidays
“When it comes to the holidays, no matter what, less is more,” Mark says. “As much as possible, adjust your expectations.”
Even preparing your home for the holidays can become part of your tradition, and don’t be surprised if your young child relishes the opportunity to help.
“Think about preparing your home for guests. What does that look like? What might make guests feel welcome in your home?” Mark asks. “We know young children want to do what they see adults doing. It’s a natural desire for them to do purposeful work.”
Consider washing a treasured serving dish and entrusting your child to carefully dry it. “These are little things that can become a tradition if we attach meaning to it,” says Mark. “There’s a lot of meaning to using a special serving tray that you got as a gift and only bring out on a special occasion.”
When you include your child and show them that you trust them to be capable, “you see them puff up with pride,” she says.
Include your child when you:
- Make name cards for the table
- Fold napkins
- Arrange flowers
- Wash and dry dishes
- Set the table
As you prepare food, your child can:
- Cut vegetables and fruit
- Spread toppings on crackers
- Peel and slice hard-boiled eggs
- Stir ingredients into a dish
- Serve food
Focus on inclusion
“Traditions and holidays are an incredible opportunity to instill a sense of belonging in the community, even for young children,” says Mark. “I think it’s also a great opportunity to help children with the concept of need versus want. We live in a consumer society that says we need things to be happy. But we know that a sense of belonging is so much more meaningful to a child.”
Montessori philosophy embraces the concept of mirrors and windows. “The mirror refers to children seeing themselves represented in the community. The window is a peek into other cultures and families,” explains Mark.
Embrace the window perspective to intentionally expose your child to the idea that different families celebrate different holidays. “This is a really important message for young children,” she says.
Rogers Park Montessori School marks the winter solstice. “It’s a beautiful time to reflect and go inward and celebrate the light in a season of darkness,” Mark says. “Everyone can celebrate the winter solstice.”
Expertise brought to you by Rogers Park Montessori School. Visit rpmschool.org.