I have spoken to several people about Christmas and I want to reiterate what I hope you all will do – don’t try to change your observance of the holidays now. It’s too late in the year to suddenly tell your sweetheart that you can’t bear to have a Christmas tree this year. Or to say, I have to have a tree this year. If this is a difficult topic, acknowledge that and make a promise to go ahead with plans as they are and to work on it come January. Email me and we’ll make a date to talk – in January. Of course if things are really getting to you, we will talk now. But don’t try to change your partner, children, parents with only a couple weeks for them to adjust.
What about Santa?
A mom on this list who is raising her child Jewish asked me what to do to help her little one keep the secret of Santa from her Christian cousins. It’s easy now, she’s only a year and a half, but what to do when she’s four and ready to teach the world?
Here are the questions to ask yourself:
Do you personally feel that your child is suffering from not believing in Santa?
If you do, your feelings will color all that you do. If your child was fine before, she won’t be after she picks up on your sadness. Children don’t suffer for lack of doing what everyone else is doing. Just remember that someday you’ll be saying to the teen version of your cutie, “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?!” The fact is that you are the one suffering and you do need to deal with your own feelings before you give them to your child.
Do you want to conceal your child’s non-belief in Santa from other little children in order to preserve their fun?
You can certainly try, but like much of life, don’t expect it to be perfect. First, you can hang out by the kids to see if it even comes up; it may not.
Little ones often disagree so your child’s disbelief will not necessarily carry any weight. If there has been a conversation and you know the other family wants to avoid the topic you can often succeed just by reminding your child that, “Joey’s mom wants him to believe in Santa so don’t talk about what we think.”
Remember too, that the entire adult world is full of non-believers who are not invested in the Santa myth, so it does not rest on you and your child to preserve the secret for anyone.
Do you want to know what to say to your child so that they will be OK with not having Santa and Christmas in the midst of a culture that gets rather excessive each December?
One approach is to make much of Chanukah. You can try this but truth be told, Chanukah remains a small holiday. Go ahead and get sparkly decorations, blue and white lights, have a party, invite people over, give the kids a modest gift each night, but don’t try to match Christmas. If you feel happy and content, believe me, they will. If you want to make the holidays really special go check out my Holiday Happiness Guidelines.
Are you trying to figure out what to say to your child so that they do believe in Santa but still feel Jewish?
If you’re working on this, you’re not alone. But the best place to start is by being honest with yourself. This approach is about balance and sharing – sharing between you and your partner. Doing both holidays is not a child centered behavior. Some of you are going to do it and for some children it’s fine. For others it is not. This is the hardest thing for me to say to you because it might hurt you. It really is hard for some children to deal with the both-ness of Christmas observance in a Jewish home. Be clear with yourself and your spouse that you are doing both for you the adults, not for your child. That way you can work on separating your feelings from your child’s feelings. This is important because your child needs your full attention sometimes.
Do this: Pay attention to the verbal and non-verbal communications from your children all year round. Are they saying things that are about protecting you or your partner? Are they saying things that express ambivalence about their identity or their sense of their acceptance by others? Don’t get stuck thinking that you are good or bad. You are just human and trying to be happy AND make your family happy. If you feel that you want to discuss this and see where things are, just call me. Dawn 510-845-6420 x11.