Sharing Your Values with Your Children over the Holidays

John M. Dabbs

Holidays are a special time for parents. They are an ideal time for parents to emphasize the most important part of celebrations during the holidays. Holidays are a time for families to gather together and celebrate the holiday together, as a family. It helps to strengthen family bonds and relationships.

Blind sided

Do you remember the movie with Sandra Bullock, where they took in a young male? The Blind Side is a movie about football great Michael Oher, and the Tuohy family in Memphis. During one scene it shows Oher looking through a book of Norman Rockwell paintings, depicting the typical American family during the holidays. Something Oher had never seen or experienced in his youth.

During Thanksgiving, Oher was asked to stay and eat with them. The sports-centered Tyohy family is shows sitting around their living room on different sofas and chairs, watching football on different sets at the same time. Mrs. Tuohy comes in from the store, where she had bought their Thanksgiving dinner, and calls them in to "get it while it's hot." The family members run for the food and fill their plates - only to return to the front of the television screens. Mrs. Tuohy doesn't see Michael, and finds him sitting at the dining room table - eating alone. We see the gravity of the situation and its imprints strike her - and she calls the family into the dining room to eat dinner together, and they give thanks.

Parental control and direction

Parents are key to controlling the mood and direction of the holidays. It is a time of celebration, but also to celebrate our relationships and being able to join together with friends and family. There comes a time in everyones life where this is no longer possible - due to death, distance, or work schedules.

It is just as important for grandparents and parents to be working together in the kitchen, preparing the food and including the children in the conversation and making. It's important to have inclusion. Children need to know they are part of the family, and including them by talking with them, and giving them simple tasks within their abilities goes a long way toward having them enjoy the holiday in a whole new light.

In my youth, the women and girls would work to prepare the table and food. The men and boys would similarly gather firewood, take out trash as needed, and support them women and girls in any manner required - and watch television too. We'd also be tasked with helping entertain family from out of town, or if sufficient numbers of cousins of similar ages were involved, we'd be sent outside to play. We were apparently "under foot".

I remember the gatherings very fondly from my youth. Family is what made the holidays special. It wasn't the candy, cakes, or any gifts we'd receive. The times were highlighted by family members making their "famous" dishes. My paternal grandmother was famous for her rolls and dressings, an aunt was famous for her potato salad, another for her banana pudding. In fact I was famous for something I always brought to the table too - my appetite. For a good while, I was known as the "human garbage disposal" - a title I did not embrace with any enthusiasm.


The importance of inclusion is something to be taught to each generation. Not only would we be invited to our families get togethers, when we had our own after our grandparents died - we'd invite our less fortunate neighbors. Neighbors without family of their own should always be welcome. It is an important lesson to share what we have, no matter how modest, with those who are less fortunate. Their fortunes may be in money and not in friends or family. Such occurrences can happen to any of us.

Even today, when our hermit-like neighbor can't attend our gatherings, we still make him a plate full of food, and a separate one of just desserts. Even if he doesn't eat them, I feel he appreciates the gesture. I also normally have my sons either drop off a Christmas gift with only his name on it, or go with me as I drop it off. We try to stop and talk with him when we see him in the yard as well. He's a friendly old man, and his family is gone. I believe it is important to share these experiences with my children. I want them to be a better person than I am.


When the friends and family are gone, we often talk about what everyone is doing in their lives and catch each other up on what we missed with our relatives - both close and far. Once one of my sons told me how smart someone was...

We talked at length about everything they'd seen and done. Several members of the family had only a high school diploma, others hadn't graduated high school. We also have several educated family members who'v gotten their Bachelor, Masters, or Doctoral degrees. As we talked about their different accomplishments I pointed out how smart some were. My maternal grandmother hadn't graduated high school, but was undoubtedly one of the smartest people in the family - maybe not the most warm and cuddly but the smartest.

It's important to show our children that although we see some people as smart and others stupid, everything is relative. I've managed to get it across (at least I think so), that everyone is smart about somethings - and dumb about others. My dad is quite smart, but writes like a third-grader. He is quite smart on a lot of topics, and a generalist at many more - but dumb as a rock on certain things (how to backward engineer a cipher wifi password - maybe). My mom is smart on a lot of things too, many of which I have no idea about. I'm smart about what I know - and smart enough to know I don't know a hill of beans about so much more. I think I've bought them not to judge people by what they know and don't - as we are all different.

That's what makes family gatherings during the holidays so much fun. We get to learn so much from so many people. We may not understand a third of it, but its so good to see them, hear, and be with them while they tell us all about their lives.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN

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