John Cowan - Christmas Rituals

Publish Date
Thursday, 21 December 2017, 12:08PM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

By John Cowan

I can give you good parenting tips and discipline techniques but one of the key things to know is that even the best ideas in the world won’t work if a child doesn’t feel plugged into his family and connected to his parents.  And one of the best ways of doing that is creating a foundation of happy shared memories, stories and experiences that will remind your child just what belonging to your family is all about. And Christmas is a fantastic time to build memories. Believe it or not, when your kids grow up they’re not going to remember how much salary you earned.  They’re not going to remember whether you kept the porch painted or not.  The things that your kids are going to remember and talk about for the rest of their lives are the fun times that you had together as a family.

One of the things that we did right through our kids’ childhoods is that each Christmas we let each of them buy one of those very expensive, over priced Christmas decorations from one of those Christmas decoration shops that pop up just before Christmas. And it went on the tree, but at the end of the Christmas season we write their name on it and the year, it goes back into their own box – and they’ve now each got quite a big collection. And it means that as our kids are now leaving home they are able to take with them this box of Christmas decorations they’ve been building up over the years to start their own Christmas traditions, and it will also provide them with a link back to every Christmas of their childhood.

Another nice Christmas thing that I think we’ve borrowed from the North Americans is: lots of people are decorating their homes with flashing lights. But the trouble is with having a Christmas in the middle of the summer, it’s so late before you get to see the full effects. So one of the things we did for years is, a couple of nights before Christmas, we let the kids stay up and then we go for a drive around the neighbourhood looking at the decorated houses and looking into the windows to see the lit up trees. I remember doing this one year with my kids, just cruising around the suburb like tourists and we looked in one house and there’s a man walking around his lounge, stark naked. Now that’s the type of stuff that builds real memories in kids minds!

Hopefully we have built better Christmas memories for our kids than that. Yes, Christmas can be an expensive hassle, but it can also be wonderful time to build family culture that gives them roots and identity. I wish you a very special and happy Christmas.

About John

John has been with The Parenting Place ( for seventeen years as their senior writer and presenter.  He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital.  As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television.

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