The Holiday Season is a busy one and it leaves many of us stressed out, overtired and feeling a little under the weather. Below you will find lots of ways that you and your family can focus on self-care this holiday season. It is important to remember to care for ourselves so that our personal lights will shine bright and then we can care for others.
Set up a family game night
Put on some fun music and have a family dance party
Drink your water (at least 1/2 your body weight in ounces)
Eat vegetables every day
Move your body for at least 30 minutes
Put on a family movie and snuggle up on the couch together
Put on an audio book and draw or color as you listen to the story
I am one of those SUPER ANNOYING people who is hyper organized when it comes to Christmas. I am a complete mess when it comes to organizing my closets, my car or other important things but I’ve got it together when it comes to Christmas.
I use the month of November to shop, decorate, wrap and complete my holiday cards. The theory is that if I get the work done in November, I will be all calm and relaxed in December. The vision of being curled up by a fire, watching Hallmark channel while snuggling with my family, helps me to get through my CRAZY November. The truth is that my December never looks like the vision I have in my head (my family hates Hallmark ;)). I ALWAYS find more to do and cram our schedule so full that there is little time to breathe.
Last year was a perfect example of this. I scheduled so many service opportunities for my family, that we were left EXHAUSTED by the time Christmas came around. I thought that if I shared the idea on my Kids in Service website, then I should be out there doing it! We practically took on a part time job at the Salvation Army ringing bells once a week for a two hour shift, we volunteered twice at the Food Bank, served lunch to the homeless in the park, shopped for children in need, did the Reverse Advent Calendar, delivered our Christmas jar, baked cookies for the postal employees, visited a woman’s rehabilitation home, gave out a dozen seeds of kindness, Jingled 8 families (EIGHT?!?!), visited the local nursing home and tried to complete EVERY DAY on our Kindness Calendar. It was a rollercoaster of a month with so many emotions. We were TIRED, INSPIRED, STRESSED OUT, JOYFUL and by the end my kids started to resent it all and would groan when it was time to go.
One morning, as I sternly told my children to SMILE while we were ringing bells in the frigid cold, I had an out of body experience. What was I doing? Was I being as kind to my children as I was to the strangers who put change in the red bucket? Was this manic pace of helping others, hurting us? We were running from one project to the next, all while trying to fit in homeschool, chores, making homemade gifts and Christmas fun. That is when I admitted to myself it was too much.
This December already looks a lot different in our house. We decided on a few favorite service projects (many of them simple) to complete over the course of the month and have had to say no to many others. We have also cut way back on our homemade gifts. Instead we are playing daily board games, reading holiday stories together and trying to save some whitespace in our crazy calendar.
Why am I sharing this story? I want to encourage YOU (or anyone who is still reading at this point) to pick only ONE act of kindness to do as a family this holiday. Pick just one! I know there are so many options this time of year but our calendars are also way more hectic. Save those service projects for other times of year when you have more time and space to devote to them. The food bank needs help ALL year long and the nursing home residents need cheering up more in March than they do now with all of the carol groups coming through.
Pick ONE thing and it can be a simple thing. Maybe you buy some $5 gift cards to a local coffee shop to spread them around to people who could use a little cheer. Or pick one tag off of the giving tree, bake cookies for a neighbor or pick one of our other holiday kindness ideas. Whatever you pick, talk it over as a family and make sure that the activity does not add any more stress to the season. It is important to remember self-care for EVERYONE in your home this holiday. If you are not taking care of yourselves, then you will not be able take care of others.
The only way you can be a LIGHT this holiday season is to take care of yourself.
This summer my local Kids in Service group started a project with our older kids (10 and up) called Granting Wishes. We like to think of it as a Make a Wish program for seniors.
This project was inspired by Ruby, a 5th grade girl in Arkansas, who visited area nursing homes daily while her mother worked as a nurse. Ruby tried to keep busy and eventually started talking with the residents. Through her conversations she would ask the residents about their wishes. She was surprised to learn that many of their wishes were simple (new shoes, an electric razor, Vienna sausages) and this led to a service project where she helped to make their wishes come true. Ruby is an INCREDIBLE Kid and such an inspiration.
This past spring we contacted the local nursing home that our KIS group has been working with for the past 4 years. We asked if we could partner with them for a similar project and the Activities director, who had heard about Ruby’s story, was excited to provide a similar experience for her residents. Many of the residents at the local Assisted Living/Nursing home are nuns and many do not have family near by. It was my hope that this summer’s Granting Wishes Project would foster some connections between the kids and residents that would lead to an Adopt a Grandparent program in the fall.
Twenty children signed up for this project and the group has visited three times now and each time has been magical. The kids break into small groups and have a list of residents they are to visit. Each week I stress that their main goal is not to gather the wishes (that is the secondary goal) but to make a connection with the senior and get to know them. It has been so much fun to watch the interactions between the seniors and the students. The kids have asked about what life was like when they were children, their interests, about their families and their wishes and dreams.
“They were just like us!” one girl said during our reflection time. “I am so surprised at how easy they are to talk with.” another boy said. “I was so nervous when I came but I feel so good after the visits.”
Many of the wishes that the kids collected are very simple to grant (Oreo cookies, crossword puzzle books, DVDs) and others are harder to grant (their spouse back, a time-machine and World Peace). We have tried to find at least one wish for each resident that we can grant and now the kids are working to make them come true.
This week we will meet to grant the wishes and I can’t wait! We have already granted two wishes and the recipients were overjoyed. One was a golfer, who golfs all over her small room. We brought her bright golf balls (so that she can easily spot them) and a putting machine so that the ball will return to her once she reaches the hole. “This is all for me?” she said, and she embraced the girls in a group hug. “Please come back and see me again!” she said to the girls. It was a beautiful moment and this project has been one of the highlights of my summer!
Click HERE for your FREE Kids in Service Thank You Card Template. Print this card out, fold it (as seen below) and have your children decorate the blank front. This is the perfect card to go along with their Project Appreciation goodies.
Check out the pictures below that demonstrate how the card is folded.
We have compiled all of our book recommendations from the Kids in Service site into one handy, printable list. This way you can grab it when you are headed to the library or download it to your phone so that you always have it. It is organized by category and has age recommendations for each book. The best part is, it’s FREE!
This list is updated each month when we add new book recommendations to the site. We hope that this list will inspire you to share some good stories with the little guys in your life today!
This winter on the Kids and Service site, we will be exploring the concept of hygge. What is hyggeyou ask and how do you pronounce this funny word? Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) is a Danish word and concept. It is hard to explain but it may be the reason that the people of Denmark are among the happiest in the world. To my family, hygge is a feeling of coziness which invites you to be mindful and use your five senses. It is about gathering, slowing down and spending quality time together.
Why am I bringing the concept of hygge to Kids in Service? Well you can thank my friend Claire for that. She knows how passionate I am about this topic and suggested I share it with all of you. One of the most important lessons I have learned from Claire and her teachings, is the concept of putting on your own oxygen mask first. The truth is that you can not serve others in your life if you are feeling run down or depleted. I am hoping that hygge will be a way for you and your family to give yourselves a little self-care so that you will be ready to go out into the world and help others.
There will be a many posts over the next few weeks exploring the concept of hygge. We will explore how you can create a hygge feeling in your home through the five senses, share some great books to read together as a family, talk about dedicating time to hygge as a family each week, share some cozy service projects that you can do together at home and share ways that you can incorporate hygge into your lives all year long.
It will cost you NO money to put the concept of hygge into action in your home. Hygge is all about togetherness, being mindful, creating a cozy environment, having a positive perspective and being grateful for what you already have. Denmark has some of the longest, coldest and darkest winters, yet its people are so happy. I believe this is because of hygge. Hygge is a powerful concept and I invite you to explore it more with your family this winter.
Here is an easy and fun project you and your kids can do together after Christmas. St. Judes Children’s Ranch collects the fronts of Christmas cards so that the teens in their program can turn them into new cards to sell. This is part of their “effort to provide the teens with life and work skills.” (St. Jude’s Children’s Ranch website)
Step 1. Have your children collect all of the non-photo cards you have received for Christmas.
Step 2. Have them sort out the cards that can not be sent (Hallmark, American Greetings and Disney can not be used by St. Jude’s Children’s Ranch).
Step 3. If age appropriate, have the kids cut the fronts off of the cards.
Step 4. Put all of the card fronts into a mailing envelop and send it to: St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, 100 St. Jude’s St., Boulder City, NV 89005