Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - December 20, 2013

Creating special memories

Traditions give children a sense of comfort

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Ever try to change something in your family holiday celebrations? Chances are the disappointment on your kids' faces brought back the old-style tree, food, decorations, etc. Children love traditions, the stuff of memories they will always have. It's the repetition and structure that brings them a sense of comfort and belonging.

You can create special memories with your family by doing fun, holiday things with them -- baking, making ornaments, decorating, seeing the festive seasonal sights, giving to the Food Bank or Toys for Tots. You can help your children make presents for those on their list; books and the Internet are full of ideas.

Be sure to spend at least one evening sitting by the fire with holiday music on. Play a game or look at old photographs. You could begin a family journal, everyone adding to it with a favorite memory from the year or a Christmas wish. This can also be a time to reflect on how you celebrate the season and why.

Another fun idea is to choose one night to dine by tree-light, turning out all the other lights and eating by the Christmas tree, picnic-style. You can talk to your children about what the holidays were like when you were youngsters.

Some families have film favorites to enjoy, such as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Miracle on 34th Street" or "A Christmas Story." For the Christmas meal, even the youngest can help line the breadbasket with a napkin or set the table, joining in the excitement of preparing the special feast.

Psychologist Clay Routledge noted in Psychology Today that cherished memories promote psychological health and well-being. Across several studies, he and his colleagues observed that the more nostalgic people were about the past, the more they perceived their lives as meaningful and tended to be psychologically healthy, energetic and optimistic.

Without delving into our psyches too deeply, let's just say that creating memories is fun! Even more than that special present, children may remember most of all the times spent celebrating the holidays with their family.

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