4 Holiday Traditions with Major Social Lessons

In the blink of an eye, it’s holiday time again. As we all bundle up to face the December chill, families everywhere have got the holidays on their minds. For many of us, that means hot chocolate, plenty of sweets, and of course, hours spent scouring the mall or the internet in order to find the perfect gifts for each member of the family. What you may not have thought of is that this time of year has lots of great opportunities to teach social lessons, which can help your child improve socially.

We know, we know—with all you’ve got going on this time of year, it’s difficult (or flat out insane) to think about adding anything else to your plate. That’s why we made sure that the tips in this article wouldn’t ask you to do anything outside of your usual holiday routine. We’re simply suggesting some ways to get your children involved with traditional holiday activities, and some social lessons to keep in mind as you do. Take a look:

1.    Pick the Perfect Present. We’re not talking about having them choose their own gifts. We know they’ve probably been keeping a wish list for weeks already, if not months! But having your child select a present for someone else in the family can be a great way to practice “perspective taking” and get them considering someone else’s interests and passions, instead of just their own. Even having them pick out just one gift for a sibling or cousin can be a great way to encourage them to think of others. And that’s something they will need to do in life in order to form lasting friendships!

2.    Make a Heartfelt Holiday Card. The holidays are the perfect time of year to remind your loved ones that they are cared about, and holiday cards are a fun way to go about it. Instead of filling out all the cards yourself this year, have your child write a message to a few of your relatives. Encourage him/her to say more than “happy holidays,” and let the person they’re writing to know how they are appreciated. This is a good way to get them in the habit of recognizing and appreciating the positive relationships in their lives.

3.    Create a Calendar of Festivities. Get organized while helping your child by planning the season’s festivities on a calendar. Mark off the weekends you will use for decorating, baking, shopping, etc. When it comes time for each activity, have your child cross it off the calendar. This will help your child to practice patience and planning, which are both important skills needed for a happy social life.

4.    Consider Those In Need. The holidays are a time for giving, and many people choose to use this time to donate to different charities and causes. This year, involve your child in the process. Let him/her help you decide which cause you want to donate to this year. If you’ve already got something in mind, your child can still help you choose or package the goods you will donate.  Friendship often calls for us to be kind to one another without expecting anything in return, and giving to charity is the perfect way to teach that lesson.

We know this time of year is hectic to say the least, and that you’ve got tons of different things competing for your attention. But if you keep in mind the social lessons that your holiday routine presents, you can make this year’s traditions especially meaningful for your child.


Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More