Edward Pola and George Wyle, writers of, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” certainly didn’t have military families separated during the holidays in mind when they wrote this song.
While the holidays can be a joyful time, it is harder to celebrate with a heart full of cheer when part of your core family is a world away. The holidays can bring the blues, and if you are a child with a parent far away, the magic can be stripped away, and none of us wants that for our children. Below are some creative ideas to do with your kids this holiday season to brighten their day, and possibly close the divide between them and their deployed parent.
1. Make an ornament
Make an ornament out of salt dough, creating something that signifies where each of you are during this deployment. Maybe your little one has decided they want to be a soldier just like Mom or Dad, or has started playing a new sport.
2. Get a smaller tree
When we are a two-parent family during Christmas most of us choose larger trees. A friend of mine, a brave mom of 4 under the age of ten, decided to pick out a tree big enough for her kids to carry every year that Dad is deployed. The family will always know which Christmas Daddy wasn’t home by the size of the tree.
3. Do a Cookie Exchange & Card Creating
Host a neighborhood cookie exchange. This is a great thing to do in a military neighborhood or a civilian neighborhood alike. Everybody bakes and brings cookies, and then you get to exchange with others, which equals more varieties and less baking. You can share your story behind the recipe such as maybe it is your favorite, or your grandmother’s most secret recipe; in any event be willing to share and open up. Save the extra cookies to give to anyone that has helped you through the deployment.
While you are there have each participant sign and/or create a card to send to a service member, veteran, or their family. If you don’t know service members that are deployed, the American Red Cross hosts a program for just the occasion, Holiday Mail for Heroes. You can send your cards too: Holiday Mail for Heroes, PO Box 5456, Capital Hills, MD 20791-5456
4. Send a Care Package
Usually when we think of care packages, we assume those that we are sending them to our service member. But have you thought of creating and delivering a care package to a homeless person? Have the kids get into decorating the box and help pick out what to include. In case you are at a loss here are a few: canned foods (pull tabs), bottles of water, toothbrush, travel size shampoo, baby wipes, socks and maybe make a no-sew blanket. We are often told that Christmas isn’t just about receiving, but also giving. What a better way to teach our kids than by sharing the joy of holiday with the less fortunate.
5. Make Twelve Days of Christmas
Help your kids write a Twelve Days of Christmas wish list, that doesn’t cost a thing. “On the first day of Christmas my Daddy/Mommy gave to me, one…”
6. Go Home
Travel home for the holidays. Being around family can make it seem that you are closer to the one you are missing. As we finish the “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” song we come to the final line: “There’ll be much mistletoe-ing, and hearts will be glowing, when loved ones are near.” Let your heart glow this season!
Most importantly, get the kids involved and set an upbeat tone. Our military kids are resilient, but they also feed off the tone that we set. If you are down with the holiday blues, your child will see that and become more susceptible to also becoming downtrodden with the holiday blues.