Christmas: what does this holiday teach our children?


Christmas is a special and wonderful time of the year, and cannot go unnoticed. Preparations for Christmas Day fill our homes and cities, whole places are lit up and adults are busy getting everything ready…but what about the children?

For kids aged up to 6-7 years the festive period is full of magic, joy and expectation: they ask a thousand questions and observe everything that’s going on around them. They watch and learn how to ‘do’ Christmas from the adults around them, what to expect and what emotions are linked to this holiday.

Parents therefore have the chance to:

  1. Teach their kids patience, as it is necessary to wait until the 25th before receiving the presents they have asked Father Christmas for, maybe by helping them understand the concept of time passing.
  2. Give them the opportunity to transform themselves, as during the Advent period they will need to demonstrate they can commit to being good in order to deserve their gifts, or at least reflect on their behaviour, thus increasing self-awareness. 
  3. Introduce them to the concept of gratitude, as this commitment has a precise meaning and aim, it will not all be for nothing, but it will be rewarded when they finally can open their presents under the tree.
  4. Finally, you can reflect on the importance of saying thank you, as they won’t always be able to receive everything they have written in their letter to Father Christmas – in fact, it is a good thing for parents to be selective – but it is important that the child appreciates what he or she has received, without getting upset about the rest, but practising gratitude instead.

Around 7 years of age children start to suspect that “this gentleman all dressed in red”, who in a single night manages to bring presents to all the children in the world, in reality doesn’t exist, and they discover the truth. Many parents question the effect this discovery has and whether their children will accuse them of deceiving them, but also they wonder how to best proceed when the time arrives for coming clean.

First of all, respect their timescales: the magical thinking which has characterized them up to the age of 6/7 lets them believe in Father Christmas, just as they believe that oxygen makes them breathe and that there are germs under their nails, and that these aren’t tricks. 

Because of this, it would perhaps be nice to keep some of that magic even in our explanation, maybe by saying that now they have grown up, they have become custodians of a secrets younger children can’t be privy to, therefore giving them a responsibility that makes them feel more adult.

The way in which we experience Christmas as children will impact on our experience as adults, and it is for this reason that I think that there are some pitfalls to avoid as parents when it comes to our kids:

– Christmas isn’t always full of joy: this holiday hasn’t got the power to make all problems disappear, or to cancel all unpleasant emotions. We don’t have to feel obliged to be happy at all costs, or feel less-than because of the situation we might be in .

– Today Christmas has a very social side, made of lights, gifts, food and parties, smiling people and warm, welcoming homes. While this is a lovely aspect of Christmas, it isn’t the only one, each of us has their own personal way of living this time of the year, of facing it and of experiencing it.

With my best wishes for the Christmas you dream of!


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