Do you feel like you’re being inundated with lists and lists of things to buy – for yourself, for your loved ones – to momentarily distract from the reality of this year? We do. Every self-care product imaginable is being aggressively marketed at us as we face down a long, socially isolated winter. After close to a year of this pandemic, we’ve finally figured out that parents of small kids (us included) can’t buy anything that’s going to make us feel “normal” again.
Photo by Lovesome Photography, 2012
As professionals who support new parents, we get an up-close view of how they’re struggling right now. And as moms of young kids, we are also living it right alongside the families we care for. From juggling essential work and caretaker roles, to job loss, to school decisions, to having tough conversations with our kids, the pressure on parents this year has painfully increased each day. If you’re looking for ways to show you care this holiday season, consider this list as an alternative to the gift suggestions being offered everywhere you turn. They’re memorable, many cost little or nothing, and they show you care in ways that a “thing” just can’t.
Emotional and practical support
A sincere, “how are you today?” goes a long way. As parents, we’re constantly thinking about our kids – are they resilient enough to withstand the sacrifices they’ve had to make this year? Are they going to be crushed if they don’t get what’s on their wish list? Or simply – how will I even afford the things they truly need? Not only are we focused on our little ones, our friends and family usually ask about them – and only them. Ask the parents in your life about their kids, sure – but then ask about them too. Don’t let them give you a superficial answer. Saying, “tell me about that,” or “I know it can’t be easy,” opens the door to more honest answers.
Beyond checking in, offer to be an extra set of hands. Running to the store? Text and see if they need anything first. Making a meal? Double it and drop off a dish to make the dinner crunch a little easier.
Want to buy them something as a gift? Gift cards for house cleaning, postpartum support services, and subscriptions for grocery delivery all give parents the priceless gift of time and help where they need it most.
Help making the holidays magical
Parents are under a ton of pressure to make the December holidays extra memorable this year. The traditions we rely on, the ability to gather with family, and even something as simple as a visit to the mall Santa might not happen. In a season where time, money and patience are in short supply, the expectations around the holidays are somehow still higher than ever.
For families celebrating their baby’s first holiday season, the next few weeks look extra bleak. Instead of multi-generational photos and extra hands to snuggle the newborn, many new parents are trying to come up with ways to make these milestone moments feel festive – at home and without loved ones nearby.
If you have the chance to add a little magic to a family’s life this year, do it! This is the holiday season to buy that “we’ll decorate their yard with candy canes” service for a family of young kids, to drop off a surprise holiday children’s book, or ship those homemade treats. If you know parents of a new little one, start a new ornament tradition for the baby, or send an extra sentimental note or gift (maybe something mom or dad loved as a child) their way.
Encouragement and acceptance
Connection is the very best gift you can give. Notice the little things a parent is doing well and comment on them. Put your thoughts on paper and write them a note complimenting their parenting. If you’ve experienced the challenges of early parenting yourself, share a story or memory that is meaningful for you (but hold the unsolicited advice!)
Make time in your day to reach out. Call just to chat, or text funny things that will make them laugh throughout the day. If you’re able, schedule a walk or a cup of coffee on the front porch. Be available and prioritize time spent together – virtually or in person.
Most of all, remember that this is an incredibly trying time for us all. If you are a friend, give the parent in your life extra latitude to forget about texting back, flake out, or pull away for a bit. If you’re a family member, accept that this holiday season may have to look very different than any other. Honor the boundaries that parents are putting in place this year. Things may not look the same, but the love is still there – and everyone is doing the best they can to balance competing demands.
Giving gifts that you can buy has a place during the holiday season. But let’s resist the idea that there’s a purchase to solve every problem. The parents in your life need extra care right now. If you can, take a moment to think intentionally about how to show them love. We promise, it won’t go unappreciated.
At Like A Sister, we believe everyone needs a “sister” by their side as they navigate the early years of parenting. We use our backgrounds (postpartum doula care, new parent education, certified lactation counseling ) to support you as you learn how to make the right choices for your family. Find more at: https://likeasistersupport.com/