Teaching Mindfulness to Your Kids During the Holidays

4 kids in striped pajamas and Santa hats lie on ground facing fire placeEach year as we navigate the holidays, I find myself thinking about ways to keep the holidays simple and stress-free for my family while also keeping everyone mindful of the realities around us. As parents, we try and make the holidays as wonderful and memorable for our kids as we can, but that desire often crosses into this weird territory of excess of all things. Excess eating, excess drinking, excess shopping, excess stress, excess planning…the list goes on and on.

For me, the holidays are also a time when I reflect on the fact that while I am fortunate to have the resources to be able to provide for my family. Not everyone is as fortunate, and that is a life lesson that is important to pass on to my children. Depending on your upbringing, it’s easy to overindulge and give your kids everything you didn’t have as a kid. On the flip side of that, it’s easy to get caught up in the “I’m going to make my kids appreciate every little thing they have that I didn’t as a kid”, and almost make your kids feel guilty for your family’s resources. My belief is that the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle of the two philosophies, and that the focus with kids should instead be on fostering a sense of mindfulness and awareness of others around them as well as the current realities of the world.

Here are a few ideas of things you can do with your families this year to keep everyone focused on what really matters this holiday season.

Put Santa in his place

Growing up, the bulk of the coolest gifts I received each year came from Santa. That was just how things were in the ’80s & ’90s – Santa brought all the cool stuff. Anything from parents or grandparents was usually pajamas, socks, or underwear – at least in my family.But that is changing now, and I could not be more thrilled. The idea that Santa brings a sleigh full of all of the year’s hottest gifts to children around the world each year creates the false illusion for kids that if you’re simply “good enough”, Santa delivers – and I think that’s problematic. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. I am all for the “magic of Christmas“, creating wonderful experiences for our children during the holidays and I enjoy the fun that comes with the magical man in the red suit. What I am not here for though is the idea that a kid from a family with fewer resources for gifts is somehow led to believe that they weren’t as “good” as the kid down the street who got everything on his list from Santa.

Each year, my husband and I designate one or two modest gifts from Santa so we can still have fun with the “magic of Santa” and the rest are from us, which keeps things simple. We also keep the overall number of gifts to a manageable number per person and don’t get carried away.

Focus on experiences vs. physical gifts

Growing up, my parents went all-out with Christmas gifts each year. It took forever to open gifts on Christmas morning and looking back at pictures, I don’t even remember probably 75% of the things pictured in those photos. There came a point each Christmas where there was too much physical stuff to get excited about and it all just kinda ran together.

Years later as an adult, I try and keep that in mind and include some experiences as gifts for our kids. Regardless of your budget, this is a great option that teaches kids to prioritize time spent together versus material possessions. Whether it’s a family vacation, family trip, or simply just a fun family outing to a show or a concert or even the newest ice cream place in town – it helps create memories for your family versus items for next year’s garage sale. For a few years, my husband and I got creative by printing photos of clues from the place we were going on the family trip that year and included them in a small photo album which we wrapped for under the tree. That way the kids still had something to open on Christmas morning and it also served as a tangible item that kept them excited until we left for the trip.


little girl helps toddler open Christmas giftLast year, my employer adopted a handful of families in our area and it reminded me of what a great way this is to not only give back to our community but also to teach our kids about those who are less fortunate. Typically with adopt-a-family programs, there is a “wish list” for members of the adopted family and you purchase items from that list. Instead of just purchasing everything off Amazon and waiting for it to arrive, I took my 6-year-old son to Target and he helped me pick out items for the adopted family. The experience forced some needed conversations between us about needs versus wants in life and was relatable to my son since one of the children from the family we adopted was the same age.

If you are interested in adopting a local family, here are some great places to start:

Houston Children’s Charity

Salvation Army Angel Tree

Star of Hope

Volunteer to help those in need

man and woman handing a turkey to a familyThis seems cliché and is depicted in countless movies and TV shows as well as all over social media, but take your kids to volunteer as early in their childhoods as you can. Doing so will at a minimum drive conversation around gratitude, helping others, and community service but it will also hopefully instill a life-long sense of giving back in your kids. The key with this though is that you can’t really take the “one and done” approach. The more you make volunteering a normal and regular part of your family’s activities, the more likely your kids are to continue it on their own. Obviously, COVID has made this somewhat harder to do over the past 19 months but there are still ample opportunities to safely volunteer locally and help others.

Here are a few ideas of great places to volunteer locally with your kids around the holidays:

Houston Food Bank

Star of Hope

Homemade Hope

Hopefully, you will find some of these mindfulness tips helpful for your family this holiday season and can add some more of your own. If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that time together and giving back are so incredibly important.


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