Tonight was the annual Fifth Grade Holiday Concert at my kids’ elementary school. 71 fifth graders took the stage and did a bang up job singing an assortment of holiday songs from a variety of cultures and faiths including Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah.
There were no solos and nobody stood out as a future American Idol winner, but I left the concert feeling really good about our school community. As a father, I walked away with a few thoughts that may help me to help my kids as they mature:
- Instill the courage to try something new. The stage was full of kids who probably don’t think of themselves as performers or musicians, and many of them looked awkward and nervous, but they were all immensely satisfied at having been part of the show. I’m guessing that given the chance to sing in a chorus again, many of them would jump at it.
- Accept them for who they are. The auditorium was full of parents and younger siblings who were smiling the whole time. Why? Because they were all proud of the fifth graders who invested the time to learn the songs and took the risk of performing in front of a crowd. There was a palpable feeling of unconditional appreciation for the kids on stage.
- Motivate them to enrich their community. Elementary schools organize small-scale events all the time that adults may think are a little corny. Pajama day, crazy hair day, school spirit day… these are the types of events that hold diminishing interest for kids as they get older. Our kids grow up too fast. In general, most first graders are psyched to wear their pajamas school, but by the time they are 10 or 11 far fewer students are willing to play along. They don’t want to risk looking silly. An enthusiastic adult (in this case, the music teacher) has the ability to inspire those reticent students to take those kinds of risks, and in so doing they build a sense of tradition and shared experience within their school communities.
These are the kinds of values that are best taught experientially and they represent classic “teachable moments.” As you roll through the holiday season, you will have many opportunities to influence how your kids spend their time. Seize the opportunities to let your kids experience the impact that they can make on the world through their generosity, love, and participation in holiday traditions. Here are a few ideas:
- Carve out some time to make (not buy) presents for friends and family.
- Go shopping as a family to buy presents for Toys for Tots or similar organizations.
- Gather up old hats, mittens, and clothing to be donated to Goodwill.
- Set aside one night for the whole family to decorate your house for the holidays.
These types of activities too often fall by the wayside during the busy holiday season, but any one of them can make a lasting impression on our kids and equip them to make the world a better place.