parenting

6 Parenting Resolutions You Can Keep in 2021

Boy Holding Sparkler
Boy Holding Sparkler

Little boy holding sparklers
You’ve probably never been more ready to say good-bye to a year than you are to say farewell to 2020.

So with the most enthusiasm you can muster, to start 2021 afresh, you’ve purchased a new online gym membership or meal planning service. Or maybe you’ve decided THIS is going to be the year you finally get out of debt or you resolved to finish the degree you started several years ago.

And while I’m cheering you on for those resolutions and I want you to look back on 2021 as the year you finally followed through on your important intentions, might I suggest you add something different to your list this year?

A resolution that will impact your family for years to come. A resolution that will bring peace and joy into your home in ways you’ve never experienced. A resolution that will reconnect you with your children in a meaningful way.

This, sweet friends, is a resolution you can keep: Become the parent you’ve always wanted to be in 2021.

In order to make that resolution a reality, I want to share 6 practical things you can start doing today. This isn’t a resolution about doing MORE, but rather a resolution about doing BETTER – both better for you and better for your children.

You CAN become the parent you’ve always dreamed of being. Don’t let the gym memberships or new workout routines or financial goals be the only resolutions you make this year.

Resolve to be the best you can for the most important people in your life. Resolve to make these 6 changes today and I guarantee you’ll enter 2021 with undeniable confidence as a parent.
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4 Ways to Celebrate the Season Without Breeding Entitlement

young boy dreaming about christmas in a santa hat

You sit at the kitchen table with your 8-year-old son, watching as he joyously fills out his holiday wish list. You love seeing the gleam in his sweet eyes as he scribbles out his heart’s desires.

Of course, you aren’t new to this whole parenting thing. You’ve been here before–just last year, in fact–and you know with every passing minute, his list is getting longer and longer.

And more expensive.

Not to mention, he doesn’t need everything on it. He wants it. And there is a very big difference between giving him something he needs and something he wants. 

Of course, it is the season of giving, and you do want to make the holidays as memorable as possible. Plus, is there anything better than seeing his face light up as he opens his presents?

But you’re also concerned with giving him too much. After all, you know there’s a fine line between gifting and spoiling, and sometimes that line can seem razor thin. 

Whether it’s the toddler requesting a sucker for good grocery store etiquette or the teenager expecting cold hard cash for good grades, everywhere you look it seems entitlement is abounding. 

Trust me, this particular predicament is no walk in the park, but I can assure you that it’s absolutely common. So common, in fact, I’ve even written a book about it! And I’d be delighted to share some tips on how you can celebrate the holiday season without having to worry about breeding entitlement in your child.

It may sound tricky, but I promise you can do it. Using these 4 tips, you’ll be sure to have the holiday season you’ve been dreaming of–with a capable and grateful child enjoying it right along with you.

1. Give Back

So often, when it comes to the holidays, we tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle that comes with the season. In non-pandemic years, we cart our children from pageants to parades. We drive around looking at Christmas lights and decorate beautiful trees in the middle of our living rooms. And let’s not forget the biggest expense of our time–gift giving!

‘Tis the season, after all.

However, amidst the chaos, it can be easy to forget that when we give, someone else receives. And when it comes to our children, it’s crucial that we make sure there’s a proper balance in place. Because if you’re only giving and they’re only receiving, you may be on the fast track to entitlement, dear friend.

So what can you do? Simple! Give them the opportunity to give back!

Charity

This time of year, you don’t have to look far to find a list of worthy and admirable charities to contribute to. These can be anything from local groups (like a soup kitchen or food pantry) to worldwide organizations.

To get your kids involved, there are a few routes you can go. 

If maintaining distance is your most important factor, have your kids set aside a portion of their allowance for charitable giving, and let them choose which organization they’d like to send it to. (Hint, hint–you can do this all year long!)

Otherwise, if your kids are super hands-on and love working with others, sign them up to serve food at the local shelter or become bell ringers for The Salvation Army.

And don’t forget, they can always give back by giving to other kids! The Angel Tree program is a wonderful way to do this and trees can be found in most cities in the US. All your kids need to do is find a tree, select an ornament, and head to the store, ready to buy the items listed for a child in need.

Involve Them in the Gift-Giving Process

Outside of charity, another amazing way you can instill the value of giving over receiving is to make sure your kids are actually involved in the gifting process.

That means, instead of adding their names to the gift tag on the box, take them shopping for the actual gift, whether in-person or online!

Ask questions like, What do you think Grandma would like this year? What do you think of when you think of your sister? What can we give your dad to bring him joy?

Not only are you going to get a great deal of help with the holiday shopping this year, but you’ll be giving your kids a huge dose of positive power by showing interest in their ideas and letting them make some decisions.

The bottom line? The holidays are a two-way street. We receive AND we give.

me me me epidemic

2. Make a Gratitude List

Let’s be honest. When it comes to the holiday season, most kids probably have only one list in mind. And while there’s nothing wrong with having them write down what gifts they’d like to receive this year, if you want to avoid entitlement, I have a better list for you to give them. 

A gratitude list.

Gratitude is an easy enough concept to grasp, yet so tricky to execute. Sure, making a list of all the things we have to be thankful for doesn’t seem like a daunting task, but actually taking the time to do so throws a wrench into more carefree holiday plans.

That’s where the list comes in. Because, when they write out a gratitude list, they naturally think about what they’re grateful for. They slow down and think about every item, committing it to memory. 

It’s a wonderful task for parents and an equally wonderful task for children. So why not do it together?

Look at your family’s schedule and carve out a time when you can sit down and make your lists. These can be private or shared; it’s up to each family member individually. 

Then, get writing. Really think it through and ask questions!

What positive things have happened to me recently? What do I appreciate the most at this time in my life? Who in my life makes me truly happy?

Practicing gratitude comes at no cost, yet yields enormous rewards. And when you take the time to do so with your kids by your side, you’ll start to see less entitlement and more appreciation.
practicing gratitude quote

3. Create Teachable Moments

Your daughter asked why the Fourth of July was a holiday and you found an excellent opportunity to teach her about freedom. Your son noticed a man on the side of the road holding a cardboard sign and it sparked an insightful conversation about charity and the importance of helping others.

There’s no denying that every single day with our children is filled with teachable moments. You know, those little opportunities that pop up out of nowhere, giving us the chance to make a valuable lesson known to our kids. We can’t plan for them, we just have to pay attention.

Teachable moments come in all forms and appear in every situation. And if you’re looking to open your child’s worldview and end any sense of entitlement she may have building up, this is the secret sauce that’s going to get you there.

Finding these moments is especially important during the holidays!

Imagine…

Your 10-year-old son wants nothing more for the holidays than a brand new Xbox. The graphics are second to none, the games are so fun, and not to mention, “all the other fifth graders are getting one from their parents.”

But at $500, the price is simply too steep.

Sure, you could cut back on some basic necessities or skip next month’s car payment. It would certainly make him happy! But would you be doing him any favors?

Absolutely not.

Instead, think of this as a teachable moment. 

Now is the time to have a very real, very important conversation…about finances.

Does he have an allowance? Let him know if he wants something that expensive, it’s up to him to pay for it. Help him understand how he can stretch his money and save it up, keeping in mind the end goal–the Xbox!

While I don’t advocate paying kids to do jobs that are expected of them around the house (after all, you don’t get paid to do the laundry, right?), they always have the opportunity to complete additional jobs outside their normal responsibilities to earn extra cash.

For older kids, this could be mowing the neighbors’ lawns or shoveling their sidewalks. Younger kids may want to host a lemonade stand (with your help, of course).

You can always take this teachable moment above and beyond by stepping outside the confines of your own four walls. Take your son to the local shelter, VA, or soup kitchen if they have any volunteer opportunities available during the holidays. 

Not all families have the means or ability to celebrate with expensive presents, yet they still manage to find the joy of the season. Seeing this with his own two eyes would work wonders on any entitlement he may have felt.

4. More Presence. Less Presents.

Let’s face it. Holiday consumerism is a tough beast to avoid. It seems everywhere you (or your children) look, another advertisement is hidden in plain sight, tempting you with the latest and greatest gadget, device, toy–whatever!

So why wouldn’t your daughter feel entitled to receive a brand new American Girl doll this year? The commercial told her she deserved one!

If this is something you and your children are wrestling with this year, I’d like to suggest a more simplified approach to help reduce the allure of buying endless gifts.

More presence. Less presents.

First of all, turn off the television, radio, and social media and step away for a little while. They have temptation written all over them.

Then, actively choose to buy fewer presents this year. Now, I’m not suggesting you don’t buy any presents–it is the season of giving, after all–just not as many as you may have in the past. 

One great option is to abide by the Four Gift Rule.

Instead of buying every item on your child’s wish list, stick to these four: something they want, something they need, something they wear, and something they read. Simple! 

Also, don’t forget to be mindful in your giving. As any parent knows, one super meaningful gift from the heart will outlast ten meaningless ones.

And, as always, you can never, ever go wrong with the greatest gift of all–your time! 

Now, you may be thinking, Ha! Amy, why don’t you try telling that to my 16-year-old? 

But I promise you, this truly is a gift worth giving. Even if you have to give it in a more roundabout way.

Because even teenagers benefit from a little one-on-one time–or as my fellow Positive Parenting Solutions members call it: Mind, Body, and Soul Time.

Would your 16-year-old enjoy a day at the spa with Mom? Would your 5-year-old be delighted with a day at the zoo? Pick something fun to do (together!) and turn it into a gift!

Not only will you be giving away the gift of your time and attention, but you’ll also be adding in a wonderful experience. It’s a two-for-one kind of deal! 

Final Thoughts

When all you hear from your kids is “Me, me, me,” or “gimme, gimme, gimme,” it can take a huge chunk of joy out of the holiday season. No parent wants to raise an entitled child, and I truly believe no parent intends to, either.

Fortunately, help is always a mouse click away. If you’re currently deep in the trenches of parenting entitled children, terrified of what the holidays will bring about, then you’ve come to the right place.

These four tips are simple, but so, so effective! Read them carefully, implement them into your holiday season, and stymie any sense of holiday entitlement present in your household–for good!

Best Parenting Products of 2021: 9 Tools to Make Your Life Easier

Baby in Shopping Cart
Baby in Shopping Cart

Little Asian girl staring into the window of a store front

I’m going to be honest, this isn’t your average parenting product review post. While you can scour the internet to find the elusive spill-proof sippy cup that actually works, or spend hours finding the best deal on educational video games for your teens, I’m here to tell you about products that will enhance your parenting skills and help bring peace into your home.

These are products I find myself recommending over and over again to parents during coaching calls or in our private members-only Facebook group. These tools help make your routines run more smoothly, improve cooperation from your kiddos and most importantly, make YOUR life easier!

Our mission at Positive Parenting Solutions is to equip parents with the tools to get kids to listen without nagging, yelling or losing control.

And while we have helped transform thousands of families, this does not diminish the fact that there are many great resources on the market to assist parents in their positive parenting journey.

All of these products are “Amy approved” and come with my biggest stamp of approval.

 

Here’s my Top 9 List of Positive Parenting Products: Read More

The Truth About Santa–and 4 Ways to Keep His Magic Alive

Santa playing with little girl around tree
Santa playing with little girl around tree

Santa playing with little girl around tree
 

Amy’s Note: I know how personal Santa is to you and your family. My intention isn’t to pass judgment, encourage one belief over another, or step on any toes. For those of you that have introduced Santa to your kids, or are considering it, these are simply ideas to transition away from a storybook Santa–whenever the time is right–and embrace a lifetime of actionable kindness and generosity. 

To millions around the world, the holiday season is incomplete without a jovial, resonant “Ho Ho Ho.” 

Santa Claus isn’t just a Christmas icon. Various countries and cultures have adopted the concept of Kris Kringle and run with it.

Any belief in Santa is deeply personal and can be presented and discussed however parents and caregivers choose. 

But if Santa has become part of your family’s traditions, there comes a time when kids learn who’s really making the gift list and checking it twice. 

As is true with the majority of positive parenting strategies I teach, the most effective way to navigate conversations about Santa is to take a proactive approach. 

So, while children are still whimsically wrapped up in Mr. Claus, here are tips to gently prepare them for the inevitable, big reveal.

Lay the “Christmas Spirit” Groundwork Early On

Many kids grow up entrenched in the idea of Santa. Babies are cuddled in his arms and toddlers sit on his giant, welcoming lap. Kids smile earnestly–or cry just as intensely–for the photo op. 

From our earliest Christmases, we know the old man in red works wonders. He has reindeer and a sleigh that circumnavigate the globe in a day. He automatically knows who’s been naughty and nice. And, he’s the keeper of the most coveted gifts. 

These visions of Santa make the holidays fun for kids and adults alike. The younger kids are, the more we can lean into these concepts and watch the wonder unfold. 

However, as wonderful as it is to delve into the magic, we can also lay the foundation for a future, longer-lasting Santa. Even as we line our kids up for photos and create cotton-ball beards, we can gently redirect them towards his character instead of his toy sack.

This way, when kids soon discover that nothing short of time travel can transport a person to that many houses in one night, they’ll have the spirit of Santa to inspire them in new ways.

Before the truth comes out, here are a few areas to focus on…

Emphasize Santa’s Kindness and Hard Work

One day, Santa won’t be landing on powdery-white rooftops. He’ll be a next-door neighbor helping your teenager shovel snow for the shared cul-de-sac. 

Another day soon, Santa won’t be gobbling up cookies on coffee tables. He’ll be volunteering with your family at the food shelter on Christmas Eve.

Santa, in essence, can be anyone who works hard to make a difference. 

The idea is, when we accentuate all the good things Santa does for people around the world, our kids can better comprehend the Christmas spirit: an attitude and moral code that can transcend all religions and traditions. It’s something your slightly older child will really be able to get behind.

In short, it’s never too soon to teach the true meaning of the holidays. When your kids’ visions of Santa and sugar plums are combined with true Christmas spirit, they won’t feel such a loss when the magic fades.

How the grinch stole christmas quote

Once our kids understand the true spirit of Santa, it’s also important to…

Abandon Naughty and Nice (and an Emphasis on Material Gifts)

If we want to accentuate the Christmas spirit, it’s also time to deviate from “naughty or nice.” 

While your kids are still young and believers in Santa, consider creating an environment where Santa doesn’t judge. An atmosphere that isn’t about give-and-take. 

Naughty behavior isn’t acceptable around the holidays or any time of year. But that doesn’t mean we should promise gift rewards for commendable behavior — especially when kids are told that Santa and his elves monitor their behavior and actions non-stop. 

Some kids latch on to Santa’s Big Brother tendencies to spy. Although he’s a lovable spy–the white-haired 007 type–it’s still discouraging, especially for kids who struggle with impulse control.

It may be awesome that Santa can do practically anything, but it’s equally intimidating that he can see and hear everything.

This sense of demoralization, especially for children who struggle to make appropriate choices, isn’t going to keep them from acting out less. In fact, it may increase bad behavior

And any subsequent good behavior will be carefully calculated on earning back gifts.  

Your kids will think, “If I don’t make Mommy and Daddy mad today, or most of the day tomorrow, I’ll probably still get my favorite gifts on Christmas morning!”


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To be fair, it’s not really their fault–kids are practically trained to focus on what Santa will bring them each Christmas. But this sense of rewards, entitlement, and materialism is not what we want them focused on. 

Using gifts as a ploy for good behavior may seem expedient and practical for parents. But it misdirects kids from the true meaning of the holidays. It also creates a power struggle and a scenario in which parents are unlikely to follow through (you’re probably still going to give them presents, aren’t you?). 

It’s far kinder to find other ways to help our kids behave appropriately, and let Santa remain a jolly old elf.

Even after equipping your kids with long-term skills for better behavior, it can still be tough when they learn that Santa had nothing to do with any of it.

If you’re worried your child will feel deceived…

Explore Any Concerns About “Lying”

Sadly, it’s true; some kids are devastated when they read the fine print. They glom onto the fact their parents lied about Santa.

There’s no way to completely control how a child will react when learning who really delivers the presents. However, it’s a less earth-shaking surprise when parents regularly emphasize the tangible, real-world actions that bring Christmas cheer. 

If Santa is the Christmas spirit, and the Christmas spirit is kindness in action, then maybe Santa IS real?

This could be the truth you choose to emphasize all throughout their Santa-believing days.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of lying about Santa to your kids, then don’t. Omit more frivolous details, try not to emphasize them, or respond with questions like, “What do the stories say?” or “What do you think?” when your kids ask for answers. And don’t promote Santa at all if it feels disingenuous. 

Instead, consider telling your kids that some parents play a game where they pretend Santa brings presents. Ask if they’d like to play too. 

Teaching kids to love and to give through the concept of Santa Claus is always a choice. It’s your call whether–and how–to do it.

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for the Santa-believing kid in your life, here are a few ways to gently spill the beans about Santa when the time comes (while still keeping the magic alive). 

1. Emphasize the Freedom of Belief

The world is all the more fascinating with its eclectic traditions. And it’s truly a gift when everyone can celebrate the holidays in their unique, special ways. 

Explaining that traditions and beliefs often vary by family helps kids transition to a new level of understanding of Santa Claus. They’ll learn there is more than one way to look at things. They can determine what they wish to see and what works for them.

But kids also need to understand their beliefs may not be held by others. 

Viewing Santa through a black and white lens can lead to that “belief-system let-down” we prefer to avoid. When other kids present opposing views, or we, as parents, pull back the curtain, we don’t want them to feel misled. 

We want them to feel enlightened.

Reminding our kids that everyone chooses their beliefs–including how they choose to view Santa–leaves room for interpretation, wonder, and possibility.

2. Embody Real Magic

Once their eyes are opened to the truth, it’s easier for kids to let go of Santa when they discover he (or she) is already in the house. 

Our actions and attitudes as parents can make the small things in life special, like focusing on things we’re grateful for and finding beauty everywhere.

Every day should be full of little bits of magic–real magic–and everyday heroism. 

Start with music. Fill your car rides, bath time, and virtual schooling breaks with all the tunes that make your heart happy. Sing along, all year long! We don’t want Santa to be the only magical concept our kids encounter each year. 

Because Santa lives for giving to others, show how you choose to give to others every day. It can be something small, like making cookies for a neighbor or just making dirty dishes disappear. Let your kids learn from your examples and help, too. 

Santa also has a great work ethic. So, illustrate all the wonderful things that come from practice and effort. After a day organizing the house, hang new fairy lights in the living room to show how beautiful it can look. Or, after patiently watching a YouTube video on cake decorating, show your kids how learning something new can be rewarding, pretty, and delicious!  

And because your kids are growing up, one way to spin the Santa conversation in a positive and empowering way is to…

3. Label the New Information “Privileged Knowledge”

Many of us want to keep the idea of Santa alive as long as possible. We like witnessing the magic in our kids’ eyes. We hate to relinquish their innocence to a more complex truth. 

But often, kids learn about Santa way before we’re ready to talk.

Maybe it was know-it-all Aiden telling the kindergarten class the North Pole is just an ocean of shifting ice. Or, your 8-year-old stumbled across the Claus costume in your husband’s corner of the closet.

How you manage interrogations from suddenly upset or curious kids depends on your wishes and beliefs. It could be time to reaffirm your stance, come clean, or simply shift gears. 

But one possible conversation could go like this:

“Lily–I know you’re upset about what Aiden said. While it wasn’t his place to tell you, he wasn’t lying, either. 

Now that you’re old enough, let me share some privileged knowledge with you. 

Santa, in a big way, is always real. He may not glide the globe in a day, have a full-fledged workshop at the North Pole, or fill your stocking on Christmas Eve. But the idea of Santa reminds us all to think of others and to always give.” 

Keep in mind, literal questions like “How can Santa come into our house when we don’t have a chimney?” may indicate your children are ready–and eager–for the truth. They’re likely at a high enough cognitive level to grasp deep, multilayered concepts, and they’ll gain confidence when their questions are respected.

We can always give kids the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their reasoning and their ability to cope with loss–even grief. They can handle it (and you can too).

With a little guidance, they can also handle the responsibility of keeping the truth on the down-low… 

Keep Them From Divulging Santa Intel 

Hopefully, your kids won’t feel the need to broadcast the privileged knowledge you’ve entrusted to them. 

By harboring knowledge they’re now “grown-up enough” to process, they may even feel more important than ever. 

Still, any conversation about Santa can end with a short caveat:

“I have confidence you’ll let your friends and siblings enjoy Santa’s magic a little longer. It was a special time for you, and it’s special for them, too.”

Kids are always encouraged when we express our confidence and faith in them. And they benefit greatly from open communication

Regardless, kids might tattle about Santa to feel more important. Or, maybe they’re angry with an uncomfortable new reality. 

We can help by expressing our empathy. The more kids feel validated for their big, complicated feelings, the less they’ll feel like invalidating the feelings of others.

Regular doses of encouragement and positive attention can also lessen any desire to divulge. 

And, especially for younger kids, we can take a few minutes to practice conversations they might have with their friends or siblings, reinforcing how to not spill the beans.

Quite possibly the best way to ensure their lips stay sealed is to…

4. Light the Way to Santa-Hood

Breaking the news about Santa doesn’t need to be sad or negative. Instead, we can think of the realization as a beautiful “aha” moment. 

This fresh, optimistic insight is the chance to pass the torch of kindness and generosity without extinguishing it. And, it’s a great way to counter all the excess and expectation of the holidays

This isn’t when childhood has to come crashing down. Instead, it’s when kids realize their parents–the ones who love them the most–are the true givers. It’s when they learn the holidays are about love and altruism–not about expecting, list-making, and judgment. 

And if we want our kids to spread Christmas-like cheer all year long, invite them in to “play Santa” during this holiday season.

Let your older children take a bite out of the Santa cookies your toddler put out. Invite them to stuff stockings for their younger siblings. Encourage them to leave powdered-sugar boot prints on your driveway for Christmas morning. 

Kids will soon catch on that the behaviors they see modeled in Santa Claus, and their own loved ones, are worth emulating–which means they have the power to become the jolly old elf himself.

Final Thoughts

It may feel like letting your kids in on the Santa secret is the end of something magical. But it’s really a wonderful beginning. Take this beautiful opportunity to tell your kids it’s their turn to embody the Christmas spirit. 

It’s not just about passing out gifts on Christmas morning. It’s a special, lifelong chance to spread kindness and joy. And it doesn’t have to be wrapped.

We want them to feel fortunate to be a part of this–the true magic of the season.

5 Ways to Make the Most of the Holidays During a Pandemic

lady in santa hat staring at computer screen
lady in santa hat staring at computer screen

lady in santa hat staring at computer screen

You skipped the annual Fourth of July block party and lit a few sparklers with your kids in the backyard instead. 

You spent hours pre-packaging hundreds of individual Halloween candy bags, then took your kids trick-or-treating from a six-foot distance. 

You even taught your great-aunt Susie how to attend your family’s annual Thanksgiving feast via Zoom.

So far, every single holiday this year has looked drastically different than years prior. And now you’ve reached the last in the line. The big one!

Whether Christmas is your thing, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or something else entirely, there’s no denying it. This is a special time of year. One that you look forward to with great anticipation.

Of course, just as with every other holiday so far, this year will be different.

But who says different has to be bad?

Now, more than ever, we need to really embrace the joy that comes so abundantly during the holiday season. Sure, we may have to give fewer hugs, share fewer goodies, and enjoy our families from a larger distance. But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate!

So strap on your masks, hop on Zoom, wash your hands–do whatever you have to do to get ready. The holidays are here and we have 5 wonderful ways you can make the most of them this year. 

Even during a pandemic…

1. Keep Your Traditions…With Safety in Mind

Does the idea of watching your little one sit on Santa’s lap delivering her Christmas wish list ignite your holiday mood? Does listening to your son’s sweet voice belt out Jingle Bells during his school Christmas pageant make your heart melt? Perhaps nothing says the holidays quite like volunteering with your teens at your local food pantry?

Whatever your favorite holiday tradition may be, chances are it will look different this year. However, don’t put on your Grinch hat so quickly! The holidays are NOT canceled simply because we are in the midst of a pandemic.

You can still keep your favorite holiday traditions. You just need to modify them with safety in mind.

When you really think about it, there are very few things you cannot do as long as you’re willing to put forth the effort and good conscience to make them happen. Besides, when it comes to the best place to be during the holidays, there truly is no place like home.

To get started, here are a few traditions you can enjoy with your family this season…with an added measure of safety:

Go on a Christmas Light Tour

Want to really dive into the festive mood? Take your family on a Christmas lights tour!

Pour some hot cocoa, dole out some cookies, crank up the carols, and drive around your neighborhood admiring all of the beautiful Christmas lights. Not only is this an incredibly easy and inexpensive way to celebrate the holidays, but you’ll be sure to enjoy some much needed time out of the house with those you love most.

Take Part in (COVID-Friendly) Community Service

Even though we are living through a pandemic, the need for community service is as strong as ever. The great thing is, many nonprofits have amended their needs this year to make sure safety is still top of mind.

Try delivering food for Meal-on-Wheels, or clean out your kitchen pantry to take items to a local food bank. You can even adopt a grandparent at a local assisted living facility by writing them letters and calling them on the phone. 

There are plenty of ways for you to still get that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with holiday service while maintaining your peace of mind.

Treat Your Neighbors

Whether you want to safely share your own homemade goods or purchase them from a store, you can still spread holiday cheer by bringing delicious treats to your friends and neighbors.

As always, show consideration by reaching out first to see if they are comfortable with the gesture. If they give you the go-ahead, you know what to do! 

Through this pandemic, we’ve certainly gotten the hang of doorstep drop-offs, and this doesn’t have to be any different. So package up those goodies, add a pretty bow, and drop them off with a sweet little note. 

You’ll be amazed at how far a simple but sweet act can go.

2. Establish Rules Ahead of Time

At the start of the holiday season, take a moment to sit down with your family and establish your own set of holiday rules. 

A Family Meeting is a great place to do this. Grab some snacks, sit in a comfortable spot, and let the meeting begin. Ask questions like:

  • What holiday activities are we comfortable doing as a family this year?
  • How many people should we/do we want to invite over?
  • Will we be shopping for gifts online this year or making them at home? 
  • How and where will family dinner be served?

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions Members can check out Step 6 for more information on how to host fun, informative, and wildly successful Family Meetings!

Once you’ve posed the questions, give each family member (yes, that includes the kids!) a chance to voice their opinion. The goal is to hold on to the joy of the season while ensuring everyone feels safe and secure.

Take the time to clearly determine your family’s level of comfort during the holidays and then stick to it. It may be tempting to give in to your mother-in-law’s wishes for a big, traditional family Christmas–36 cousins and all–but if that’s something you’ve decided against, stick to your resolve! The holidays will be so much more enjoyable without the added stress of doing something you’re uncomfortable with. 

Note: This is also a great time to take note of your local government’s rules and regulations regarding COVID-19 gatherings and events. You can reach out to your local Department of Health for more details.


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3. Take it Virtual

How fortunate are we to live in a time and society where staying connected is so easy to do? 

With technology and applications like Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Meet, distance makes less of an impact. As long as we have Wi-Fi and a smartphone or computer, we can talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

So, if traveling to see relatives or hosting out-of-town friends and family is not an option, why not take it online? Sure, your usual family get-togethers of holidays past may have aimed to include less technology, not more, but I think it’s okay to make an exception…just this once.

Here are a few ideas for you:

Host a Virtual Holiday Party!

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that there’s very little we cannot do together–even from a distance! If social gatherings, whether at work or at home, are not going to be a part of your holidays this year, consider hosting a virtual party instead. 

Send out party invitations, decorate the space behind your computer, and put on your ugliest (or most beautiful) Christmas sweater! Do whatever you need to do to make your spirits bright.

Because, in the end, the atmosphere may change, but with a little creativity and some wonderful conversation, the party can–and should–go on!

Share Your Family Caroling Online or Outside

Buddy the Elf said it best: “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear.”

And if singing for others is your favorite way to spread happiness during the holiday season, you shouldn’t let a pandemic stop you. You just have to be creative.

And a bit technologically savvy…

Hop on Facebook or Instagram and make a Live video of you and your family belting your favorite holiday tunes. Or, if going Live is not your thing (hello, stage fright), just pre-record your beautiful caroling and send it out with your family’s holiday e-card. 

And didn’t caroling used to happen outdoors anyway? Some assisted living communities might be grateful for outdoor carolers if you call ahead and set a time for your family or group. Go along with their rules and bundle up as you wave to residents through their windows and spread cheer inside and out.

So whether you take your caroling online or outside, you’ve got options!

4. Manage Your Expectations

If you want to make the most of your holiday season this year, you’ll first have to accept that things will be different than they were before. You may be upset about the upcoming changes, scared, or even a bit angry–and that is perfectly fine! This year has been tough and we’d be doing ourselves no favors if we pretended it wasn’t.

So accept what you’re feeling and grieve it if you need to. Then, manage your expectations for what’s to come.

Start with the knowns…

Family get-togethers may be smaller, budgets may be tighter, and travel plans may be delayed if not canceled. 

Then, focus on the positives…

Smaller family gatherings mean fewer mouths to feed and more quality time together. A tighter gift budget may present the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about giving. And skipping the family road trip or navigating your way through a crowded airport may mean a lot less stress.

Having a clear understanding of what you can expect from the holidays–before they’ve even begun–will ensure you aren’t setting yourself up for disappointment. There’s no need to compare this holiday to any of the ones in the past because this year is different.

And, as I’ve said before, different doesn’t have to be bad.

5. Find Joy in the Little Things

You want to know the best thing about joy? It costs nothing and can be found in the simplest of places!

Start by taking note of all the things you are thankful for this year. You can do this by yourself or as a family; it’s up to you! But I definitely recommend writing them down in a gratitude journal.

What do you have to be thankful for–especially this year? 

Is it more time at home with your family? The chance to get to know your kids a little better? What about your health? Maybe even your financial stability?

Whatever you have to celebrate (big or small), write it down! Because when you write it down, you commit it to memory. And when you remember what you have to celebrate, joy simply falls into place. 

Not only will you become more joyous, but you’ll start to see your kids filled with gratitude, too. And there’s an added bonus that pops up when you instill gratitude in your children–they naturally begin to feel less entitled

Now that’s what I call a win-win.

Final Thoughts

There’s no denying it; 2020 was tough! We’ve weathered some pretty rough storms and for many of us, we are merely waiting for the year to end. BUT despite COVID-19, lockdowns, virtual schooling, and more, this can STILL be the most wonderful time of the year! 

Because, as anyone who has taken my proven 7-Step Parenting Success System can tell you, a little positivity can transform anything. And I am positive you can enjoy the holidays just as much now as you did before the pandemic.

Who knows?! With the simplicity of the world and the extra time at home, maybe–just maybe–you’ll enjoy them even more.

Ultimate 2020 Gift Guide: Gifts the Whole Family will Love

family gathered opening christmas present
family gathered opening christmas present

family gathered opening christmas present

While it is our absolute joy to bring you a list of our favorite products, we may receive a small commission if you purchase products through some of the links on this page (don’t worry, this doesn’t affect the price you pay). But please know, even though we are constantly asked to review products, we only recommend products we absolutely LOVE, so you can trust that this list contains only our shout-it-from-the-rooftops favorites!

When gifts suit the giftee, there is no greater glee. 

Now try saying that 10 times, fast.

It’s true, though. The best gifts bring joy to those who give and receive. And when a gift is truly loved and appreciated? It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

The problem is, finding ideal presents can take a toll on our time and add stress each holiday season.

We draw blanks brainstorming what to give extended family and shrewdly narrow down the gift list for present-loving kids.  

We try our best to spend the same amount of money on everyone, without spending too much. 

We want our gifts to be enjoyed, not unappreciated or wasted. (Thank goodness for gift receipts and gift cards though, right?) 

AND, as parents, we try to spread love and fun–without the materialism that can come with it

But whether we tend to purchase everything in July or shop frantically online the week before Christmas, the best gifts take careful consideration. 

To help out, we’ve compiled a list of super easy ideas to save you some sanity (and a few brain cells) when choosing this year’s presents.

Table of Contents

pricing guide

Gifts That Encourage FUN Family Time 

We’ve all had more time with family in 2020 than we bargained for. With the pandemic, stay-at-home orders, and virtual schooling, family time has been abundant–albeit a little crazy. 

But, as we’ve all learned by now, family time should be about quality, not just quantity. 

The last thing any of us need right now is to create more work for ourselves as parents. And sometimes, family activities can be just that. 

Instead, we’ve pulled together some thoughtful gift ideas for the whole family–all void of too much effort or extravagance.

Individual Mind, Body, and Soul Time Gifts

Kids love presents, but the truth is, the gift of time–from parent to child–is the ultimate present. 

At Positive Parenting Solutions, we always highly encourage one-on-one time with your kids. We call it Mind, Body, and Soul Time.

We recommend this activity between each parent and each child for 10-15 minutes EVERY DAY. And while even this brief amount of time can be hard to set aside, it truly does help with everything from misbehavior to parent-child connection. 

best gift is you

Our FREE ONLINE WEBINAR further explains why positive connection is so crucial, but it’s true: Mind, Body, and Soul Time is one of the best ways to make our kids feel loved and appreciated. 

But beyond the fact that this attention is a gift in and of itself, it can still be wrapped up in a bow:

Build-a-Fort
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $$$

HearthSong has a fun collection of Build-a-Fort kits that you and your child can build and rebuild to your hearts’ content. This can work as a larger group activity too! This particular set is sold on Amazon.

Chasing Fireflies
Ages: 3+
Cost: $

Hide and Seek is a timeless, classic game kids love. With this fun toy, you can combine the game with cute, light-up fireflies and even hunt for the bugs alone.

Laser Xblank
Ages: 12+ (In our opinion, kids much younger will enjoy this game, too.)
Cost: $

Kids always like a fun game of laser tag. With this set, you can play one-on-one at home. Some also come in larger sets for the whole family.

Family Time Gifts 

Since most of us are spending more time with our kids than ever before, why not make it as fun–and as sane–as possible?

Family Paint Night
Ages: 6+
Cost: $-$$$

Painting To Gogh will mail paint kits to your doorstep. All you have to do is link to the tutorial when you and the fam are ready for your paint party! Recommended for kids ages 6+.

Escape Room
Ages: 10+
Cost: $-$$$

Escape rooms are an excellent source of entertainment, especially for older kids. They help families work together and problem-solve. Check this link to find an escape room near you and look for a family-friendly challenge! Just make sure they’re open and that it’s safe to do so (COVID-wise) in your area. You can still wrap this by printing out a gift certificate or hand-written coupon detailing the experience. Or, for a family night in, purchase an escape-room-in-a-box kit, which are plentiful anywhere games are sold.

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TableTopics
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $

Family dinners are always a wonderful time for families to connect. But if it’s been a long day for us parents, or the kids don’t feel like sitting, we often need motivation and icebreakers. There is also a teen edition.

Family Adventure Challenge
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $$

This is a book that takes family activities to an awesome new level. Families scratch off an adventure together and must complete it before taking on the next challenge. This is a great gift from kids to their parents, too!

Board Games: Family game night can’t be beaten. With a little set-up and patience for the rules, these board games deliver good, old-fashioned fun. Here are our favorites:

Ages 2-3+

Ages 5-6+

Ages 10+

Educational Gifts That Kids Still Consider “Cool”

Educational gifts can be purchased for Mind, Body, and Soul Time, family activities, or solo play. 

And sometimes, we really want kids to cherish their individual time–without the screens and while doing something educational. 

Of course, when we do encourage that solo play, it’s important to find age-appropriate toys to eliminate frustration for everyone.

Subscription Boxes
Ages: Varies
Cost: $-$$$

Kids love receiving packages not just once a year, but once a month! KiwiCo offers monthly science and STEM subscription kits for kids ages 3-16, while MEL Science is for ages 10+ and includes virtual reality science lessons. You can also purchase single kits through KiwiCo.

Unofficial Minecraft Lab for Kids
Ages: 8+
Cost: $

Minecraft is an uber-popular video game, but getting our tweens off the screen is always ideal. According to this book’s description, “you can balance your child’s screen time with real-life learning and interaction.”

Crayola Color Chemistry Labcolour chemistry
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $$

This is packed with science experiments suitable for all ages.  

Cooking Classes
Ages: 2+
Cost: $-$$$

In-person cooking classes or their virtual counterparts are always excellent for a budding, food-loving chef. Plus, your child can learn to cook for the whole family! We absolutely LOVE Kids Cook Real Food eCourse if you want to get your kids helping in the kitchen..

Telescope
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $$$

A life-long love of astronomy–even philosophy–can come from a telescope. According to the brand website, the FunScope is “A great first telescope for beginners and families to test the waters of stargazing at an affordable price.”

IlluStory by Lulu Jr.
Ages: 4+
Cost: $

You can nurture your child’s love for storytelling with this book-making kit.

My Comic Book by Lulu Jr.
Ages: 6+
Cost: $

This is a similar kit, with an additional focus on artwork.

LEGO Technic
Ages: 7+
Cost: $-$$$

For kids ages 7-8 and up, LEGO Technic will get your children’s mechanical gears turning. 

Gifts That Inspire Gratitude

As we all know, the holidays have become a time of excess. And while this is fun and exhilarating for kids and parents alike, it can also create feelings of entitlement.

Yes, we train our kids to say thank you for the gifts they open, especially in front of the loved ones who gave them. But sometimes, the sentiment isn’t there. And it’s not necessarily because they’re ungrateful. 

Kids are simply conditioned to receive and to expect each holiday, without much afterthought.

One battle tactic is to purchase fewer gifts–or even just one–that may have more meaning to our kids. 

We can also purchase gifts that instill gratefulness:

Time Capsules
Ages: 4+
Cost: $-$$$

Encouraging kids to think of something meaningful to them–which also represents themselves or their setting–is one of the many advantages of a time capsule. When kids have time to both reflect and consider the future, they learn about perspective. These suggestions will help you pick out a time capsule that you wrap, and they fill. Just include a DO NOT OPEN UNTIL date! (These make great gifts again at high school or college graduations!)

Repurposed Items

Recycle and Remake
Ages: 9+
Cost: $-$$

If our goal is to minimize commercialism and waste, we can repurpose trash and encourage our kids to do the same. This book, along with these Household Recycling Toy Kits, does just that.

Eco Stars Recycled Crayonsblank
Ages: 3+
Cost: $

Turn the purchase of recycled crayons into a learning lesson for your youngest kiddos, or even make your own! Thou shall not waste! 

Zero Waste Boxes
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $$$

Okay, so this probably can’t be the only present under the tree. But it can be one of them. While opening this box, we can explain that it’s about giving back to the environment. With the other new toys they’re likely receiving, this one encourages them to simultaneously dispose of those they no longer want or need. 

Love for Animals and the Outdoors

WWF Donation
Ages: 4+
Cost: $$$

With a $75 donation to the World Wildlife Foundation, they’ll send you three stuffed animals of your choice. It’s a great way to give while also getting something fun in return. But the true lesson, of course, is explaining to our kids that these toys weren’t just purchased for them, but for the greater (animal) good.

Outdoor Explorer and Bug Catcher Kit
Ages: 3+
Cost: $$

A love of the outdoors and tiny insects will make kids more appreciative of the massive–and miniature–worlds around them.

The Ultimate Book of Scavenger Hunts blank
Ages: 4+
Cost: $

This contains 42 outdoor hunts. It helps engage kids when they’re bored without their screens (the horror!) and instills a sense of wonder and gratitude for the great outdoors.

Classes & Private Lessons

Private lessons can come in any shape and size. They even come virtually! 

From music to sports, these one-on-one lessons with an instructor deliver much more than one package ever could. They can inspire a life-long love of creative and athletic pursuits. 

Anything that your child has shown interest in can be gifted as a private lesson. And gratitude for this gift will only grow as your child learns more and excels at something new!

Music Lessons
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $-$$$

Music & Arts offers in-person and virtual music classes alike. 

Sports/Fitness Lessons
Ages: Varies
Cost: $-$$$

Takelessons.com offers private lessons in sports and fitness. 

TakeLessons.com
Ages: Varies
Cost: $-$$$

Not only does this site offer individualized lessons in sports and fitness as mentioned above, but it also offers lessons in languages and other academics.

Heirlooms

Ages: 7+
Cost: Free

Handing down heirlooms is something kids take to heart.

The older kids are, the more meaningful these gifts can be. But younger kids can appreciate them, too. 

You can even go through an old box of vintage toys you had when you were little and let them pick out toys to be fixed, re-painted, or enjoyed as-is. 

Here are some other ideas: Heirloom Gift Ideas

Fun and Frivolous Gifts (That Won’t Annoy Parents)

We’ve all had that doll that makes sudden, creepy cries in the middle of the night, and the high-pitched monotonous toy you feel the need to make “disappear.”

Let’s not forget the flashy, obnoxious, battery-eating toys that stop working after 5-minutes and leave us regretting our purchase. 

Kids love these toys, though. They don the top of wish lists and catch their eyes at every store. 

We’re bound to buy one or two–or a few–each season.

One idea is to save these toys, when they’re small enough, as stocking stuffers. That way we can keep more valuable and meaningful gifts under the tree. 

But when we still want to wrap a few gifts for pure fun, here are some solid ideas:

Eco-Friendly Marble Run
Ages: 4+
Cost: $$$

We’ll admit, this toy still has educational value and the marbles can get everywhere, but it’s a classic game that always sparks joy. 

SoapSox Bath Plushes
Ages: 0-10
Cost: $

These are also more than just fun. They’re functional. Your child can bring a stuffed animal sponge into the bath that cleans them and doesn’t leave a big toy mess for you to clean up. Awe.Some. 

Superhero Costumes
Ages: 4-12
Cost: $

Playing dress-up never goes out of style and is a gift that encourages confidence and imagination!

Build-a-Bouquet blank
Ages: 3-6
Cost: $

This sweet flower set made by Green Toys (from recycled plastics) helps kids create, build, and practice their gardening skills!

Hanging Solar System
Ages: 3+
Cost: $

This is fun to both unwrap and hang in their rooms. 

Flybar Pogo Ball
Ages: 6+
Cost: $

Let kids expend some energy with this indoor/outdoor activity.

Little Live Pets Cozy Dozy cozy dozy
Ages: 3+
Cost: $

Kids will love these cute teddy bear and koala babies. They can play animal, house, doctor, and dolls with these nap-friendly, soothing toys. 

Gifts FROM Kids (That They Really Did Help With)

We’ve all presented gifts on behalf of our kids. 

When a gift tag says “To Mom, from Liam,” it’s probably really “To Mom, from Dad Pretending to be Liam.” Because Liam’s only four. 

Or, even more realistically, “To Mom, from Mom, Pretending to be Dad, Pretending to be Liam.”

Still, from an early age, kids can be encouraged to give thoughtfully. The earlier they learn the joy of giving, the less they’ll want. Really. 

But how can a 4-year-old give something, at least monetarily? Well, that’s for each family to decide. 

We can either encourage our children to contemplate and choose gifts while we cover the cost, or we can encourage them to use their allowance to budget for gifts. 

With an Allowance

At Positive Parenting Solutions, we see an allowance as a fantastic financial training tool. We believe kids even as young as four or five can benefit from monetary management. 

Ideally, an allowance isn’t just about spending. It’s about saving and giving. If kids do this successfully, they’ll have enough money of their own to spend on gifts.

It may not be much, but even a little can go a long way. 

Toys for Tots
Ages: 4+ (So kids grasp the donation concept)
Cost: $-$$$

The well-established Toys for Tots is a great way for kids to consider those less fortunate. Children can choose a toy and donate it–all online. 

4 Ocean
Ages: 4+ (So kids grasp the donation concept)
Cost: $-$$$

Buy a gift–some under $25.00–and help save the ocean! For example, kids can gift moms, grandmas, sisters–anyone!–the beautiful bracelets on offer. 

Indoor Darts, Curling, Golf/Pool, or Shuffleboard
Ages: 8+ 
Cost: $$-$$$

Dad and Mom might both like these fun indoor options that encourage fun family time. Parents can even pitch in with the costs. 

Starbucks Gift Card
Ages: 4+ 
Cost: $-$$$

Kids know what picks their parents up–and contributing to that joy is something almost any child can afford with basic budgeting. Naturally, kids can substitute other options for siblings, grandparents, and the rest of their peeps.

Small Gifts for Siblings
Ages: 3+ 
Cost: $

Many kids have just a few dollars to spend, but it’s impactful when kids remember not just Mom and Dad, but each other. One idea is to gift a LEGO-loving sibling a unique Minifigure. Another is to wrap some neon or glitter crayons.   

Without an Allowance

Repurposed Toys
Ages: All Ages
Cost: Free

We talked above about repurposing trash, but kids can also repurpose their toys to make new gifts for family and friends. 

Used Toy Donations
Ages: All Ages
Cost: Free

Kids can turn their excess into something valuable for another child.

A Helpful Activity
Ages: All Ages
Cost: Free

When kids give presents, a little can go a long way. It may be unrealistic to expect them to make breakfast in bed for mom and dad on Christmas morning, but they could make a dessert for holiday dinner or clean the house after the presents are opened. 

DIY Crafts
Ages: All Ages
Cost: Free

Depending on a child’s age (and the type of craft), a DIY project may be something an adult needs to assist with. Still, if we let our kids choose the crafts and help substantially with the project, they will feel pride in a hand-made gift. And the recipient will love the thought and work put into it.

Gift Exchanges

Many of us are familiar with the annual White Elephant or Secret Santa exchanges at work and at school. But kids will adore playing these games with family members. They’re a clever way to receive a gift while giving something in return. 

Secret Santa encourages kids to consider what others care about, while White Elephant teaches, “We get what we get and don’t throw a fit.” 

Best of all, they’re both riotous fun.

Final Thoughts

The art of gifting is legit–as in legitimately nuanced, thoughtful, impactful, stressful, and tricky.

Just remember that starting a tradition of substantial, meaningful gifting is the most priceless gift of all. 

And everyone will benefit.