“I know it’s Christmas, but I just feel sad!”
What is a parent to do if their child just isn’t joyful this Christmas season? While you’ll find plenty of articles and blogs that deal with adult depression and darkness during the holiday season, there’s an unspoken expectation that children will just automatically be filled with happiness as Christmas approaches.
Yes, most children will be excited and joyful as they anticipate Christmas, but this just isn’t true of all children. Whether our children are more melancholy by nature, or the increased activity and out-of-the-normal schedule is the issue, or perhaps they are struggling with the absence of a parent due to custody issues, deployments, or even death, to expect those children to respond to the holidays with happiness is to set them up for failure.
To be honest, feeling blue could even just be the result of too many sugary cookies or materialism overload!
How can we help those less-than-enthusiastic children? It’s definitely not a good plan to tell them to just, “Cheer up! It’s Christmas!!” Instead, here are a couple of ideas to support and encourage our kids as they enter this busy Christmas season.
First, become a student of your child. Too often, we are excited about holiday opportunities and activities, so we just assume our child will be excited as well. Take the time to observe their words and body language. If your child is telling you that they don’t want to go somewhere, and instead they just want to stay home, ask them good questions to determine why they feel that way.
Are they just tired?
Has there been too much running around and they just need some downtime?
Are they nervous about who will be there and your expectations for their involvement?
Ask good questions and listen for their heart replies. Be careful not to give them a ready-made emotion that isn’t really theirs! For example, sometimes our children are just overly tired. When we insert emotions for them such as “sad” or “feeling left out,” we will turn something physical into an emotional hurt where no such hurt actually exists!
The best antidote for the blues is to help our child take their attention off of self, in order to find ways to serve and bless others.
Obviously, if our child is just overly tired, we need to make sure they have rest and downtime. However, if their sadness or lack of joy is unexplainable or just comes from a melancholy personality, helping them to observe and fill the needs of others will be like medicine to that melancholy mood.
Many communities have Ronald McDonald houses where parents and siblings of critically ill children are staying. You and your child could bake cookies or take casseroles to help ease the burden for those families. Rescue missions are always in need of socks, gloves, and children’s fever medications during the winter months. Contact a local organization and find out how you and your child can best help them. Perhaps, you could organize a sock drive in your neighborhood or church. Do you have elderly neighbors that would be blessed by a visit and some conversation?
Engage your child in the planning process and find a way to redirect their attention.
It truly is better to give than to receive, and learning to see needs and fill them will quickly take a down-in-the-dumps child’s concentration off of their sadness and refocus them on the joy of serving others.
Perhaps the best gift we can give all of our children this Christmas season is the gift of NO EXPECTATIONS!
As parents, it’s far too easy to get wrapped up in how our children are responding to the gifts we give and the activities we plan. Give them the freedom and space to respond in their own unique way… Whether it be exuberant joy or quiet contemplation. Don’t take their response personally! Encourage them that there is no right or wrong way to feel about Christmas, then remind them that this holiday ultimately is an opportunity to show Christ to a world that doesn’t know Him.
Help all of your children by involving your whole family in making the most of these Christmas days, as you together, glorify God and showcase His Son!