Cre­ate your very own mem­o­ries this sea­son and cel­e­brate the val­ues most im­por­tant to you.

Living and Loving - - CONTENTS -

Do you still re­mem­ber the ex­cited buzz about Christ­mas you felt when you were lit­tle? The an­tic­i­pa­tion of putting bis­cuits and milk out for Santa, or the joy of go­ing into the liv­ing room in your py­ja­mas to open presents? No time is more mag­i­cal for lit­tle ones, and it’s the warm fa­mil­iar­ity of fam­ily tra­di­tions that sprin­kles much of the magic dust. Now you’re a par­ent, you have the key to this Christ­mas king­dom, and it’s up to you to de­cide what mem­o­ries your lit­tle one will cher­ish. So, make a date on the sofa with your part­ner: it’s time to think about what your new fam­ily tra­di­tions are go­ing to be.

Share your mem­o­ries

Now you’ve got your own fam­ily, Christ­mas will be dif­fer­ent. Up un­til now, you may have al­ways gone along with the way your part­ner’s fam­ily cel­e­brates – or vice versa – but it’s time for change. Yes, you’re each still part of your an­ces­tral fam­ily, but this year, your own lit­tle fam­ily takes prece­dence. So, talk to your part­ner about what he finds spe­cial about Christ­mas, and share your thoughts too. De­cide what parts of his child­hood Christ­mas, and what parts of yours, you’d like to recre­ate.

This cherry-pick­ing of Christ­mas tra­di­tions to cel­e­brate in your new fam­ily has wider ben­e­fits than you might first imag­ine. “Shar­ing mem­o­ries, com­ing up with ex­cit­ing new tra­di­tions, and mak­ing plans for your fu­ture to­gether as a fam­ily will strengthen your bond with your part­ner,” says psy­chol­o­gist Dr Linda Pa­padopou­los. “To­gether, you have the power to hand-pick all the bits you loved and throw out the parts you hated, mak­ing you feel like a team. You’re de­sign­ing your child’s mem­o­ries, and it feels good to do that to­gether.”

It’s also im­por­tant to take joint re­spon­si­bil­ity for the way your new fam­ily Christ­mas is go­ing to be. “To do this, you need to ac­cept that some peo­ple get really ex­cited about Christ­mas, but oth­ers don’t,” adds Dr Pa­padopou­los. “Talk­ing and re­spect­ing each other’s wishes will help cre­ate a har­mo­nious at­mos­phere and let you en­joy these first Christ­mas ex­pe­ri­ences with your baby. You don’t have to be per­fectly in sync with your part­ner when it comes to Christ­mas, just to have agreed what it means to your new fam­ily. What­ever you agree on, it will all form part of the sto­ries you’ll re-tell as your child grows. In years to come, your child might joke about how Christ­mas-crazy Dad was while Mom al­ways moaned about vac­u­um­ing up the glit­ter − but that’s all part of cre­at­ing a shared his­tory.”

In­volve the wider fam­ily

Ask fam­ily mem­bers what they re­mem­ber from their child­hood Christ­mases, as this will give you plenty of ideas for your own. Your tra­di­tions will be even more sig­nif­i­cant if they go back years and in­volve other fam­ily mem­bers.

“We don’t al­ways find the time dur­ing the year to sit and rem­i­nisce about the past, and Christ­mas is the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to share this with your child,” says Dr Pa­padopou­los.

“Kids love sto­ries and do­ing this will give you a wealth of fam­ily tales to tell your baby as she grows. The time spent and sto­ries told will give her a sense of fam­ily his­tory and a wider feel­ing of be­ing con­nected to those around her.”

If you, or your part­ner, have roots in an­other coun­try, find out how Christ­mas is cel­e­brated there too. An­other cul­ture might of­fer ideas that you had never thought of, and it will be an­other op­por­tu­nity to give your child a sense of her fam­ily iden­tity.

Con­sider the fu­ture

While you’re chat­ting through your plan, think about how your tra­di­tions will stand the test of time. The things your child will en­joy most – at all ages and stages of child­hood – are ones that in­volve spend­ing time with her fam­ily. “Think less about what you are go­ing to do, and more about why you are do­ing it. The an­swer is hope­fully be­cause you are en­joy­ing fes­tive time to­gether,” says Dr Pa­padopou­los. “These are the mem­o­ries you will all value the most, and the tra­di­tions your child might carry on with her fam­ily one day in the fu­ture.”

Like­wise, keep your tra­di­tions sim­ple and fun. “Christ­mas shouldn’t be a drag,” says Dr Linda. For ex­am­ple, there’s noth­ing more cosy and Christ­massy than snug­gling up on the sofa and read­ing a mag­i­cal, fes­tive story with your lit­tle one. Although it’s such a sim­ple plea­sure, it can have a real im­pact on your child’s mem­ory. Se­lect a story to read ev­ery Christ­mas Eve, and it will be etched even deeper into her mem­ory. “This sim­ple act will help cre­ate a calm mo­ment of to­geth­er­ness and the story it­self will, in turn, be­come part of the story of your child’s life,” says Dr Linda. “As sib­lings come along, they will be bonded by this shared ex­pe­ri­ence and mem­ory of an ac­tiv­ity they al­ways en­joyed to­gether.”

Think about the sum to­tal

Think about choos­ing one tra­di­tion that builds into some­thing that’s big­ger than the sum of its parts.

For ex­am­ple, you could take the same Christ­mas photo ev­ery year: ‘We all cher­ish pho­tos from our child­hood, es­pe­cially the ones we know our fam­i­lies cher­ished tak­ing. Putting thought into fes­tive shots that can be taken ev­ery year en­sures your child has spe­cial im­ages, with dates and mem­o­ries at­tached,” says Dr Pa­padopou­los.

“Pho­tos are an im­por­tant part of our story and the tales at­tached to them help seal our mem­o­ries. “Fam­ily pho­tos can be won­der­ful for all of you − when you look back, you and your part­ner will be flooded with mem­o­ries of how your child looked and acted at that stage. She will see how im­por­tant she was and still is in her fam­ily set­ting.” So, what will it be? Buy­ing the Christ­mas tree, stand­ing out­side your front door in Santa hats, or an ex­cited just­be­fore-bed snap on Christ­mas Eve?

Even if your baby is too young to re­mem­ber right now, it isn’t too early to start. Set your fes­tive tra­di­tions from the start and you’ll be able to pho­to­graph or video your baby tak­ing part, or keep the trea­sure she helps make, to show her when she’s older. This will make your tra­di­tions feel like a cen­tral, age-old part of your fam­ily that she’ll trea­sure for­ever. LL

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