Focusing on kindness, not consumption, this Christmas

Dear Families,

What a year we have had; full of learning adventures, opportunities for personal growth and to practice resilience through challenges, mindful celebrations, student lead protests, and significant staff departures and arrivals.

As we head into our long holiday break it is time to rest, restore, reflect and refocus on what really matters.

In recent days, Oxford Dictionaries has named 'climate emergency' as its 2019 Word of the Year, choosing it from an all-environmental shortlist that also included 'climate action,' 'climate denial,' 'eco-anxiety,' 'extinction' and 'flight shame.'

The Word of the Year citation is intended to highlight 'a word or expression shown through usage evidence to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have a lasting potential as a term of cultural significance.'

Greta Thunberg, 16, has become the face of the growing youth movement demanding global climate action. The climate activist who started ‘Fridays for Future’ school strikes a year ago in Sweden has now turned global, demanding governments to take drastic measures to cut back on carbon emissions.

In light of these inspiring and ongoing actions of young people across the globe, and amid our crazy consumer driven Christmas culture, I encourage all families to refocus on what really matters this festive season.

Positive psychology expert Professor Lea Waters knows all about the challenges of staying focused on what’s important at Christmas. She says,

“Whenever possible, we need to teach kids that Christmas is about caring, rather than consumption,” “And that their value sits in who they are, not in what they own.”

She goes on to say,

“We can all get caught up in the ‘Christmas bling’, but with a shift in focus parents can use the festive season to model some valuable lessons. When you think about every religion, every philosophy, every way of life – for centuries there have been rhythms and rituals to the year, and Christmas is one of them. T here’s a number of reasons for these rituals and a key one is to allow people to slow down, recharge and reconnect.”

In our busy world, slowing down and reconnecting with family and friends is not just enjoyable – it’s important for our health and wellbeing.

“We’re living in this hyper adrenalised, road runner, technology-driven society, with too many of us experiencing high levels of stress. Slowing down and reconnecting is part of the antidote.  It’s about connecting with the people we love and thinking about how we can help others less fortunate than ourselves.”

As parents, it’s important to model positive behaviours, says Professor Waters.

“It’s all very well for us to say ‘Christmas isn’t just about presents’, but if all kids see are presents, then what else are they going to think?”

1. Role Model Generosity

Christmas provides the perfect opportunity to role model generosity, for example by donating to a charity you support as a family, or by donating a gift through initiatives like the Target & UnitingCare Christmas appeal or the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal.

“It’s a particularly great way for young children to put themselves in the shoes of another child who doesn’t necessarily have the same gifts, not just in terms of stuff, but in terms of gifts like ‘family, safety and love’ too.”


Practising gratitude is particularly important at Christmas time, in order to balance the focus on accumulating new ‘stuff’.

Research has consistently shown that people who express gratitude feel healthier and happier

“Taking a moment to reflect on what we already have, rather than on what we want, can be really beneficial.”

3. List Your Family's Strenghts

Focusing on each family member’s unique strengths can be a positive way to celebrate what they bring to family life. 

“Including children in creating a holiday season is really deep modelling that this time of year is about family and relationships, as well as celebrating what everyone in the family has to offer.”

4. Slow Down

Show your kids that this time of the year gives us permission to slow down, savour time together, and take some time off.

“We need to let go of perfection and give ourselves permission to be human”.

5. Set and Emotional Goal

Professor Waters suggests setting a goal at the start of the festive season for how you’d like to feel…having an emotional goal like being at peace, calm and connected can be a really good way to think about the Christmas period.

Keeping that goal in mind can help make decisions like whether you need to attend yet another party, or buy so many new toys for the kids.

“Putting your energy into how you want your family to feel can really help guide your decision making during the Christmas madness.”

In conclusion, give love not stuff, seek out stillness and don’t strive for perfection. That way, you will have the mental space to settle into the magic of Christmas, and you will start the new year feeling rested and restored.

On behalf of the Counselling Team at Woodleigh, I wish you all a safe & happy Christmas break.

Donna Nairn
Director of Counselling

Further reading & acknowledgements: