I don't know about you, but each year I feel a little sad after Christmas is over. All the preparations; gift buying, meals, family get-togethers, etc. have come to an end and you and your children may be experiencing a sort of "let down" feeling. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are more of adult celebrations, so your children may really be feeling the "after Christmas blues." This year, I felt it through the entire season. I ended up getting influenza A the weekend before Christmas and my husband wasn't feeling well either, so we spent the entire week at home, wishing we could be with family and feeling pretty low that we were stuck in the house feeling pretty bad. So I think I experienced the "blues" way before Christmas was even over. But then I reminded myself of all the things we were able to celebrate. Thank goodness we had our Christmas with our kids and grandkids the weekend before, I'm very thankful we did get to do that, not sure I would have recovered had we had to miss that also. We saw our grandson in his church Christmas program, and enjoyed our granddaughters school Christmas events, so not all was lost. And now, there are still a lot of activities you can do with your children to keep the spirit of Christmas alive a little longer and help them transition back into a normal routine!
Even though children can experience these after Christmas blues, there are ways you can help to alleviate their disheartened feelings. First, try to use these days following Christmas as family relationship days. If you didn't have a chance to drive and look at Christmas lights before Christmas, take time to do this after Christmas. Many families keep their lights up until after the new year.
Another thing you can do is to attend some celebratory church services. Some churches continue to celebrate until the new year and have activities for children also, so check out some of the local parishes and see what's going on.
Ask family and friends who have traveled far to visit if they can stay a few days longer. Enjoy some quiet time with them and talk about things other than the holidays. These days could be the best time you spend together.
Use the week after Christmas to read books together and play games together. Some of these books and games could be ones your children received as gifts at Christmas. Towards the end of the week, you can go shopping together to spend some gift cards your children might have received as presents.
Movie nights are also fun. Use these evenings to attend some family movies together, or you can watch family movies at home and enjoy hot cocoa and popcorn. You might want to make hot apple cider or s'mores.
Enjoy a night of Christmas or holiday music as you take down the Christmas tree. Make that a celebration in itself. Turn this into a fun event so that it doesn't seem like a chore. You might even suggest your children invite some friends over for pizza and dessert and create a "Take Down the Christmas Tree" party. Listen to music and have fun with your family and friends.
Take time to visit some local museums. This is something so many of us take for granted and don't spend the time to really study what they have to offer. Doing this with your children can be an exciting and educational outing. Invite family and friends to go with you and make it a fun extended family celebration.
The longer you keep your children engaged and feeling loved and appreciated over the holiday break, the less disappointment they will feel when their Christmas day has ended. The key is to slowly and gradually ease them back into their normal schedules and routines. Then, once school has begun, and the winter months have arrived in full force, they have been slowly acclimated to face the days ahead with a little more strength and vigor. Their transition will have been smoother and gentler, and subtle, smooth transitions are always easier than abrasive, harsh ones!
Remember, Christmas should last longer than just a few days. We need to carry the spirit of Christmas with us all year. Take the time to spend with your children, family and friends without the hustle and bustle of the "before Christmas" activities. Relax, enjoy, and love your kids and families, that is what the true spirit of Christmas is really all about.
May you all have a blessed, healthy and happy New Year!
Sue Junge is an Early Childhood Support Specialist for the Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area and is a Thursday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. For more information, please visit www.iowarivervalleyeca.org .