This time of year, it can be especially easy for kids (and us parents) to get caught up in the hustle bustle of the holidays, and loose sight of what's truly important.
I know there have been times where I have got caught up in the busyness and stress that can come with Christmas and momentarily forget what it's really all about - giving, spending time with loved ones and spreading cheer!
One of my favourite parts of motherhood has been creating traditions with the kids. I'm a huge sucker for a good annual tradition.
However, as my two oldest stepchildren have embarked on the teenage years, they've become less (and less) interested in participating in some of our regular family holiday traditions.
They aren't interested in decorating the gingerbread houses and they'd rather hang out with their friends than decorate the family tree. It's a little sad, but all very age appropriate! Fellow parents/step-parents of teenagers, I know you hear me here!
In our home, we don't push it! We let them do their thing - and know that as time goes on, their priorities will change and they'll want to hang out with the family again. Eventually they'll realize just how cool their Dad and Stepmom are.... right?!
But the one non-negotiable tradition that we continue do push is giving back and doing random acts of kindness - all year round, but especially during the holidays!
Giving back is a major part of our Holiday Tradition - it's one of the traditions that year after year, everyone participates in. Unlike decorating a gingerbread house or decorating the Christmas Tree (or taking the picture for this blog post ) it's something that we can incorporate into our every day (and doesn't necessarily have to take the teenagers away from their booming social lives)
Each year stepmoms who read this blog reach out and ask me for advice on starting new traditions with their step kids - this is one that I highly recommend!
Little (and big acts) of spreading cheer throughout the Holiday Season are sure to be something that the entire family enjoys, and teaches our kids what Christmas kids all about.
So for those of you who are looking for new ways to spread cheer in your family - here are some of our favourite ways:
1. WE DONATE TO THE LOCAL FOOD BANK
Christmas is expensive, the budget get's tight - but we always ensure that we set some funds aside to provide some food to the local food bank - everyone deserves a nice warm meal especially on Christmas. The kids throw some canned goods into their bag for the donation box at school, and we try and purchase the pre-made donation bags at our local store when we do our regular shop. A little bit can go a long way!
2. WE BUY STRANGERS COFFEE
When we are in the drive-thru getting our morning coffee, we randomly pay for the stranger behind us too - then we ask the teller to ask them to "pay it forward". This small, random act of kindness, can make someone's day - and the cyclical effect of the "pay it forward" request ripples further than we will ever understand.
3. WE SHOW OUR APPRECIATION
We always get a special gift for the teachers in our kid's lives - and write them a loving and encouraging note to ensure that they know just how much we appreciate them.
4. WE DONATE TO TOY DRIVES
We always make a point of donating unwrapped toys to our local woman's shelter. I love taking the kids into the toy aisle and asking them to pick out a toy that they think another child would just LOVE to open up on Christmas morning. It's always impresses me just how much time and thought they put into it!
5. WE DONATE LIGHTLY USED TOYS & CLOTHING
This time of year, we make a point to go through our belongings and bring lightly used toys and clothes to Goodwill. It helps us stay organized and makes room for presents, while also giving back to the community!
6. WE MAKE PERSONALIZED CARDS
The kids make crafts and write personalized cards for family members - this either goes along with as gift we've bought, or is sent solo as a way to show some love!
7. WE VOLUNTEER
Over the last couple of years, my husband and stepchildren have volunteered to serve food at a the local soup kitchen. This has been an eye opening experience for the kids. They always leave with full hearts and feeling grateful for the experience.
8. WE SMILE AT STRANGERS
When we cross paths a stranger, we simply smile and wish them a Merry Christmas. It's the best.
At first, when the kids saw us do this, they asked "do you know them?" - But now, they see the value in smiling at strangers and every once and a while I'll see the older ones do it too! Reese on the other hand, wishes everyone she sees a "Merry Christmas" - it's the cutest thing ever!
I honestly feel like a smile from a stranger can change your entire day!
9. WE DONATE PYJAMAS
Everyone deserves a good night sleep, so we like to donate new pyjamas to the local Panama drive.
We all love the feeling of a fresh new pair of comfy pyjamas, especially around the holidays - it's great to be able to provide another child with that same warm cozy feeling!
10. WE WALK THE RUNWAY
This year, the two youngest and I participated in a local fashion show that raised money for Stratford Perth Rotary Hospice - and they did so great! Not only did the event help support local businesses that we love, the proceeds from the event went to an amazing cause. Teaching the kids about how charity events work was a lot of fun - and even though it took them out of their comfort zone - they felt so great about taking part!
This year we've added another way to spread cheer to our list of traditions. As you've probably noticed, Cheerios has a limited time Cheerio Box that provides Canadians with the opportunity to "Cheer on" Canadian athletes by sending them words of support and encouragement while they are in Pyeongchang for the 2018 Winter Games. My 10 year old stepson thinks this is the coolest thing ever.
All you have to do is cut the Cheer Card out of the box, write a little message and pop it in the mail!
While this isn't necessarily holiday related, we were happy to incorporate this in't our Holiday tradition this year! It's such a cool experience for the kids to know they are talking directly to Olympic Athletes, but also really great for the athletes themselves - because who doesn't love receiving a little encouragement and inspiration in the mail!?
Even though the little ways that we spread cheer over the holiday season can seem minor, this support and encouragement really can go a long way. They brighten someone's day, encourage them to pay it forward and and support causes that are dedicated to spreading cheer and inspiring people all year round.
As parents, the concept of spreading cheer is an important one to teach our kids... I really believe that Cheer breeds Cheer! If we teach our kids to spread the love, the ripple effect will be game changing!
How great does it feel when you see your child doing a random act of kindness? Not just at Christmas time but all year round.
Random acts of kindness not only brighten other people's day, it feels really good to do something for someone just for the sake of doing something for them.
DISCLAIMER: This post was created in partnership with Cheerios and YMC - I received compensation for this post. However, as always, all opinions expressed are my own, and the traditions and activities outlined in this post are ones that I highly recommend.