November 25, 2020 - Podcast

Episode 63—Navigating the holidays as new parents, and raising generous kids

The holiday season is a special time for families, particularly for new parents. But with COVID-19 cases on the rise, the 2020 holiday season will be significantly different and may prove tricky for new parents faced with making difficult decisions about how to celebrate while keeping their family safe. Jennifer Bute, an associate professor of Communication Studies at IUPUI, says that while this holiday season may be difficult for new parents – especially as they navigate decision making over which extended family members, if any, can celebrate with them – there are things they can do to make sure it’s still special. Bute recommends utilizing technology to connect with extended family members safely who may feel left out of the celebrations, particularly new grandparents. Videoconferencing is a good way to help them feel connected, despite the distance. Maria Brann, also a professor of communication studies at IUPUI, says families also can use this time to start new holiday traditions. Parents could try a new recipe to be included in the holiday meal, take candid photos of the baby playing with holiday decorations, or do a craft project that can be displayed for years to come. Brann says focusing on quality time and activities with immediate family members can be a memorable way to share the holidays. Brann and Bute both say the important thing is for extended family members and friends to support difficult decisions that parents are making. Bute says new moms are already navigating the challenges of having a new baby and staying safe during the pandemic, so friends and family can support them by respecting their wishes this holiday season. For those family members who will be meeting the family’s new addition this season, Brann says it is important to ask parents what precautions they want taken and to honor those requests.

In addition to gathering family together, the holiday season is often a time when families support their communities by giving to charitable causes. This giving allows parents an opportunity to teach their children about the importance of giving back. But like so many other things this year, charitable giving during the holidays may look different — but parents can still find new ways to instill a sense of generosity in their children. Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm, a professor of economics and philanthropic studies at IUPUI, says children are probably stressed by the pandemic, so finding a way for them to take action during this tough year might help in ways beyond simply expressing generosity. Ottoni-Wilhelm says children can be generous even at a young age, even acts as small as wearing a mask to protect others or making a drawing to brighten someone’s day, all of which can help build a foundation for giving, he says. When parents talk to their children about these actions, Ottoni-Wilhelm says to focus on the benefit their generosity will have on the emotional well-being of other people and attribute the child’s acts of charity to the child’s character, which they will start to internalize and think of as part of their identity. Ottoni-Wilhelm says parents need to be role models in giving and to talk about it with their kids so children can see that giving is a regular part of their family’s life. Ottoni-Wilhelm also recommends that parents and children engage in acts of generosity together, allowing for easy conversation about what activities they are doing and why. Finally, Ottoni-Wilhelm recommends that parents also spend time with their children on a regular basis doing activities that are not geared towards giving. This helps show the child what receiving kindness from another person feels like and can help increase their own generosity, trust, kindness and helpfulness.