Santa, Please Stop Here! 4 Santa Faux Pas and How to Avoid Them

Image Source: Katie Krause

I love the holidays. I love the traditions I grew up with – that I continue with my own family – like cutting down our own tree each year. I love the new traditions we have started, like taking my birthday off at the end of November to put up Christmas lights and decorate. Being able to share these traditions our young children (2 yo and 4 yo), makes this time of year seem even more magical. While all families have their own magical moments that are important to them, I thought of one I’d like to share that has shifted for me over the years – Santa. Not every family believes or celebrates this tradition, but for those that do I wanted to take a few minutes to share some thoughts about some of the Santa-related issues I’ve been asked my perspective on by others

Scared of Santa

One of our children’s favorite traditions is to visit Santa, multiple times! Since the photos are free, and it’s nearby, we usually go several times in December. While the screaming baby on Santa’s lap may bring a few laughs, consider what that experience is like for the child. When an adult places a child on a stranger’s lap and leaves them there when they are clearly upset what message is that sending? Did you know that the brain wires for trust and mistrust during the first years of life? We want our children to be able to trust that we will keep them safe, be responsive to their needs, and honor their feelings. Is this really a big deal? Well, when children have their needs met (like, being comforted after a scary situation) routinely, it ensures the wiring in the brain will be laid down for trust. Dr. Pam Schiller says it best, “One way or another, the brain is going about its work of wiring.”

“But you do not understand, it’s a tradition to get that photo.” I hear you. Here are some other ways to still get that photo, without reinforcing a negative experience.

  • Let your child sit on a bench next to Santa (very common now), or stand next to Santa at a comfortable distance.
  • Join in – rather than handing off your child to Santa, hop in the picture too, keeping your little one safely in your arms.
  • Visit multiple times – The place we go offers a basic photo for no cost. If we go after school, there is never a line. If needed, we could probably spend a few minutes to get the kiddos a bit more comfortable.
  • Try to keep calm– the more stressed or frustrated you get, the less comfortable your children are going to be.
  • Ask your child what they prefer, “Would you like to sit or stand next to Santa? Do you want me to go with you?” Even children that are not yet verbal are able to make choices like this.
  • Prepare your child for the experience in advance. Show them pictures or videos and talk to them about what will happen. When you arrive, continue to narrate the experience for them.
Image Source: Katie Krause

Presents from Santa

Ever wonder why Santa brought you underwear, but he brought your neighbor a Nintendo?  Research has shown that children as young as four years old notice differences in social class (Heberle & Carter, 2020).  So children that are still young enough to believe in Santa may very well be able to notice the differences between the cost and quantity of presents ‘Santa’ has brought their friends. A great suggestion is that ‘Santa’ only brings one (not expensive) present and maybe fills the stockings.  Help your fellow families who might not be able to splurge over the holidays and give yourself the credit for that awesome present.

Santa is watching

We have been struggling with this one in my house lately. My husband has been doing a lot of the Santa threats, and I’ve been joining in. It might sound something like this: “Santa isn’t going to bring you presents if you don’t do xyz”, “Santa only brings presents for good kids”, “I’m going to tell Santa not to bring you a present this year”.  I even started singing ‘Santa Claus is coming to Town” the other day….yuck! What was I thinking?! I love Christmas…why on earth would I want to turn Santa into someone that can’t look past a bad day, or cancel Christmas?!

While these threats might produce a quick result, the Santa threats don’t work for long, and are often empty threats. They can also leave children feeling scared, sad, or confused. Are you really not going to give your children the present you bought them? And even if you did, young children are not old enough to connect a behavior they did a day, a week or even a month before Christmas to not getting a present Christmas morning. 

Is it not ok to cry, or be upset, or feel frustrated during the holiday season? Remember that negative behaviors are way children communicate a need and how they show us they are struggling with something. Also keep in mind, as an adult, you probably feel sad, frustrated, mad, scared, and a range of other emotions that we often view as ‘bad’ when children feel this way. You’ve had a bit more time to learn how to appropriately cope with those emotions (or sadly…how to punch them back down and put on a happy face, which is certainly not what we want to teach our children). 

Check out our other blog for some great tips on handling your kiddos Temper-tantrums and try to use Time-In J  https://learningchildblog.com/2020/05/01/temper-tantrums-and-time-in/

Is Santa even real?

There are lots of opinions for families and even from the experts regarding the idea of Santa.  Some of us just love the magic of Christmas, and Santa is a big part of that. I’ve got some friends that go all-out moving that darn little elf Every. Single. Day. However, some families are very much against the idea of Santa. Families feel that they are lying to their children if they include Santa in their holiday traditions. 

The key here is to really do what feels right for your family. Yes, some adults look back on their childhood and may have felt lied to or deceived by their parents about Santa. Others look back and have amazing memories of the magic. I’ll never forget being amazed the year I got a wooden desk with my name on it. Santa was truly magical if he could get in my house without a chimney, bring this huge thing along with him and he really did know my name!

We have no way of knowing if, or how, our children will remember these early years. We cannot stress out over trying to create ‘perfect memories’ of our children, or ourselves.  Each family needs to focus on what is meaningful for us, and be mindful of what our intentions are for the various activities we do – or do not – decide to participate in.

At the end of the day, or the end of the holiday season, the thing our children are going to remember the most is the love of their family and time spent together.

Here are some ideas you and your family might enjoy doing together.

Sesame Street: Kids Talk About Holidays

Sesame Street: The Power of We Holiday Party

4-H Holidays at Home

I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

KATIE KRAUSE EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Kara Kohel, Linda Reddish, and Lynn DeVries, Early Childhood Extension Educators

Resource: Heberle, A. E., & Carter, A. S. (2020). Young children’s stereotype endorsement about people in poverty: Age and economic status effects. Children and Youth Services Review108, 104605.

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Cultivating Cultural Competence In Children

Culturally diverse childrenIf civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships-the ability of all people, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace. –Franklin D. Roosevelt

The first step to cultivate human relationships starts in the home. Children tend to exhibit the behaviors and attitudes that they observe. If parents want children to value diversity, it’s imperative that parents model respect for all people. In addition, parents must make a conscious effort to provide their children with the skills and tools necessary to grow up to become culturally competent adults.

Research Tells Us…

  • Parents are the primary influence on children’s attitudes toward other cultural groups.
  • Between ages 2 and 5, children become aware of gender, race, ethnicity, and disabilities. They are aware of both the positive and negative bias.
  • Biases based on gender, race, disability, or social class creates obstacles and a false sense of superiority for children.
  • Racism attacks the self-esteem of children of color.

Make Diversity Part Of Your Daily Life

  • Create an environment that reflects diversity. Include toys, literature, artwork, etc. that represents all groups of people.
  • Interact with others that are different. Provide opportunities for your child at school,Different hands together daycare, play-dates, or try attending cultural events together.
  • Talk about diversity. Listen to and answer your child’s questions about what they are experiencing in the world. Talking about their experiences helps them learn from different perspectives.
  • As your child gets older teach him/her how to challenge stereotypes appropriately and what to do when witnessing a bias.
  • Most importantly, parents must model acceptance and open-mindedness about diversity.
  • Make certain that the school your child attends as well as community and religious organizations you belong to promote respect for diversity.

Family Activities

  • Research your own family’s heritage. This will help build a sense of pride and understanding of your cultural heritage in your child.
  • Discuss issues you may hear. Children are going to hear things about diversity and other issues in the media or in the classroom. This brings up a great opportunity to talk to your child about how to respond in an appropriate manner.
  • Learn a second language. Children can start learning another language with simple words like numbers, colors, and naming objects around your home. Our blog post Culturally Responsive Teaching And Environments has great tips on how to introduce other languages in the classroom which can also be used in the home!
  • Explore foods. The cuisine of other cultures introduces children to something different. Try preparing ethnic recipes together at home or dine at an ethnic restaurant.
  • Attend cultural events. Museums, concerts, plays, dances, and attending festivals or celebrations of other cultures are great ways to introduce children to diversity. If you’re a bit apprehensive about attending a cultural celebration/festival for the first time, you might want invite a friend from that community to accompany you and your family to the event.

What are your tips for encouraging cultural competency within your children at home or in the classroom? Leave us a comment!

Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Routines Matter

Teacher reading to children and establishing a routine with them.Why Are Routines Important?

One of the most important concepts for parents and child care providers to consider is the child’s daily routine. A well thought out routine can be the secret to a calm, child centered learning environment if planned appropriately. Children desire to know what is coming next in their lives. If the established routine is consistent and predictable, the children in your care will begin to infer and make sense of “time” related to the events in the daily schedule. Perhaps morning snack always comes after story time, or Johnny’s Dad always arrives shortly after outdoor play. When a caregiver commits to establishing a consistent routine, they are building a sense of trust and children have a sense of control over the day.

On the other hand, if the daily routine is full of unknowns and interruptions, this chaotic environment will likely result in worry and anxiety in young children. Children who cannot yet communicate feelings around the disorganization may instead display disruptive behaviors toward the parent or caregiver and other children in the setting.

Routines In The Homebaby-1151347_960_720

Parents and caregivers can work together to establish routines at home that are similar to child care and vise-versa. We all lead busy lives, and weekends and evenings can be even
more spontaneous. Parents will find that they have less struggles with their little ones if they can at least keep meals and bed time or nap time close to a normal routine. Don’t forget to communicate together about changes in your normal routine as well. Caregivers who are aware of this can be more sensitive to individual children’s needs.

Example On How To Keep Routine In The Home

Parents can make a simple flow chart of events as a visual for children at home similar to what you might find in a preschool classroom. This could be posted on the refrigerator and as the day goes on, the child could move a refrigerator magnet to the picture of what happens next. Eventually children won’t rely on moving the marker with each event, and will be satisfied with knowing that they have passed a few steps and can visually see what is next. These picture schedules are also great at preparing children for a change in the daily routine. Parents and caregivers can talk about how the routine will be different today with a simple explanation and perhaps rearrange the photos if needed to help the child see how they will go about the day. Check out these additional tips on establishing routines from eXtension.

Routine With Infants

For caregivers of infants and toddlers routines Infant getting a bathare all about meeting the needs of the child in a responsive, nurturing way. We wouldn’t expect all infants to be fed, or nap at the same time, but the manner in which you respond and the environment you design to meet the infant’s needs can be seen as your established routine. For more information on establishing routines check out this article from NAEYC.

Key Points When Setting Up Your Daily Routine

  1. Consider the age and developmental stage of the children when establishing routines.
  2. Consistency is important to build trust and reduce behaviors and anxiety.
  3. Parents and caregivers can work together to enhance the consistent and predictable routine.
  4. If there must be a change in the routine, try to prepare the child ahead of time.
  5. An established routine will allow you to be flexible when needed with minimal disruptions.

What are your tips for setting up routines in your child care center or home? Leave us a comment below!

Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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The Importance Of Play

Mother playing with two girlsPlay is a crucial part of your child’s development it starts in infancy and should continue throughout his or her life. When you play with your child it not only helps you to build a positive relationship, strengthen your bond with your child it has additional benefits as well.

Play provides multiple opportunities for children to learn social, communication, and academic skills while building confidence and positive self-esteem. Through play you can help your child learn to solve problems, explore his or her creativity, and build vocabulary. Children learn important friendship skills like turn taking, sharing, and being empathetic. Keep in mind that unstructured physically active play may lead to healthier children, especially when it replaces or helps limit screen time.

Friendship Skills

Some essential benefits of play is that our children begin to learn social and communication skills sharing, turn taking, problem solving, etc. that will help them be more successful when playing with other children. When children have these skills, it often makes it easier for them to make friends!

Giving suggestions, being helpful, giving complements, and understanding how and when to give an apology are all important friendship skills to model when playing with your child.

How To Add More Playtime

  • Brainstorm when you would have 10-15 minutes a day to play with your child,Son and father playing golf be certain to write it down in your calendar.
  • Ask your child for suggestions as to how they would like to spend time playing with you and make a list of all the ways you can play together.
  • If you have more than one child you might want to take this opportunity to spend some one-on-one playtime with each child. You can also plan family fun nights that include play or games.
  • Remember that time spent in the car is another good time to play and to develop skills, you can play age appropriate games that incorporate looking for colors, shapes, letters, and words, etc.
  • Don’t forget books ask your librarian to suggest books that teach friendship, and play skills!

Follow Your Child’s Lead

When playing with your child remember to follow your child’s lead that means to allow for play situations where the child is in control and the adult follows the child’s lead. It is important that children be the decision-makers during play, choosing what and where to play, choosing roles for each player, and choosing how play will proceed. The following suggestions can better guide you in how to follow your child’s lead:

  • Follow your child’s lead that means to wait, watch, and then join your child’s play.
  • With very young children talk, talk, and talk about what your child is doing the adult imitates the child’s play and uses “talk” or “narration” to facilitate language development and this helps your child remain engaged.
  • Encourage your child’s creativity and imaginative thinking. Display artwork or stories in a prominent place (the fridge) or put them in frames. Create an art corner with art supplies and paper for children to be creative. Ask children to make up their own stories or create their own endings to familiar stories.
  • Watch for your child’s cues. Most children aren’t very subtle when they want your attention like tugging at your pant leg or greeting you at the front door when you get home from work. When you plan a specific time to play with your child this may sometimes eliminate them demanding your time when they know that you have set aside time to play with them.
  • Avoid power struggles remember you can be intentional about what you might like for your children to learn from playing however, keep it simple and allow your child to direct the play.
  • Most important have fun together!
Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

This article was previously published in a University of Nebraska Extension PDF by Lisa Poppe. Permission to use this post is from the author.

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Family Strengths

Grandparents In Park With Grandchildren Riding Bikes

What makes a strong family? All families function differently and all families have strengths.

Retired UNL Family Life specialist, Doc. John DeFrain has done research for more than 20 years in several countries. Through research on families he found that there are six general qualities to help strengthen families. Pick out your families strengths as you look at these qualities.

Appreciation and affection

People in strong families deeply care for one another, and they let each other know this on a regular basis. This could be just sitting by a person’s side or giving them a quick hug and words of endearment such as I love you, I appreciate you.

Commitment

Members of strong families show a strong commitment to one another, investing time and energy in family activities. This doesn’t mean that you have to attend every activity – it might be a neighbor that fills in sometimes.

Positive Communication

Strong families are often task-oriented but they also need to spend time talking with and listening to one another just to stay connected. Again, this can be just a quick e-mail or phone call to say Hi and how is your day? You need to communicate about end of life issues before the time comes to actually use them.

Enjoyable Time Together

When children were asked what is a happy family they most often would say it is one that does things together. This might be having a day to clean the house or having a picnic inside. Research also shows that if family members are not in the best situation it takes one hour a week of a positive example for children to become resilient to the situations around them.

Successful Management Of Stress And Crisis

Strong families are not immune to stress and crisis, but they know how to work together to meet challenges when they inevitably occur in life.

Spiritual well-being

Spiritual well-being can be seen as the caring center within each individual that promotes sharing, love and compassion. This might be a faith in God, hope or a sense of optimism in life; some say they feel a oneness with the world.

Resources

Getting Connected, Staying Connected: The World Couples and Families Live In Today

Getting Connected, Staying Connected: What Are Our Strengths as a Couple? How Can We Build on Them?

Getting Connected, Staying Connected: How Couples Can Ensure a Meaningful and Happy Life Together

Eileen Krumbach, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

This article was previously published by Krumbach as a PDF for Nebraska Extension. It is published with full permission.

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Tips To Manage Holiday Stress

Managing holiday stressHundreds of dollars in spending and calendars overloaded with extra events and commitments can turn the holiday season from merry to miserable for many Americans.

Families are dynamic and they aren’t perfect. The holidays are a high-stress time due to more obligations, the blending of families who may not get along, overwhelming financial stress, and high expectations for traditions.

Families need to practice communication techniques before the holiday season gets busier. Small things can make a big difference, and playing games together can be one way to find that quality time. By playing games together, family members get to know each other better, talk, laugh and be silly.

Tips For Managing Holiday Stress

  • Try to celebrate one good thing each day, whether it’s getting out the door on time or taking a few minutes to chat about school or work.
  • Talk with each person in the family, including children, and let them know about changes in schedules or upcoming events.
  • Remember that kind words and acts go a long way. A hug or heartfelt “thanks” are meaningful and simple ways to express appreciation.
  • Show self-respect and be nice to family members who may be struggling with changes to routines or health behaviors.
  • Be realistic and communicate up-front about what the family can do. Identify which traditions are most important and which can be skipped or delayed, whether kids or adults can help with chores or events, and when the family plans to stay home and relax.
  • Take a slow, deep breath at multiple times throughout the day.
Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

This article was previously published for Nebraska Extension by Lisa as a PDF. It is re-published here with her permission.

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