Teaching Kids Happiness in Anticipation

Reflections on the holidays.

Christmas Anticipation 2014

A Child’s Christmas Time Epiphany On Receiving Gifts

Just weeks before Christmas, my 7-year-old said to me something startling…

“Getting new toys is not really that fun.”

Acting calmly, I said, “What do you mean?”

He said, “Well, I noticed that after just a little while it’s not as much fun as I thought it would be.”

I replied, “You mean the excitement of something new wears off?”

“Yea”, he said softly.

And that got me thinking about the crazed scene of last Christmas (where I admit, I went a little overboard!). I noticed how my children were in a bit of a crazed frenzy when opening something new and that they barely stopped to look at the gift they just opened before tearing into the next. After they opened the last one, they seemed caught up in a delirium of wanting more. What really made me pause was the feeling of lack that was created by having so much. The great disappointment when things came to an end overtook the excitement of receiving a mound of amazing presents.

Boys Rip Open Christmas Stocking Gifts at Frenzied Pace

Isn’t that an oxymoronic situation?

I’ll say it again: The Feeling of Lack was Created By Having So Much.

After that conversation with my son, we talked about happiness and where happiness comes from. He understood that happiness did not come from getting something new. I then introduced the idea of happiness linked to anticipation. I pointed out how the excitement is greatest in the waiting, in the time that comes before getting the new toy or gift. I also pointed out that being able to appreciate and enjoy one gift at a time is more satisfying than the act of opening a “zillion” gifts at once (kids want it to feel like a zillion, but even if a zillion existed, that wouldn’t feel like enough).

Winnie-The-Pooh’s Thoughts On Anticipation

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” ~A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

My son’s epiphany naturally led me to rethink how we were going to deal with gifts this Christmas.

I thought of how we ritualize the anticipation of Christmas with celebrating four weeks of Advent (a beloved family ritual of lighting candles, saying verses, singing songs and reading stories about the coming of baby Jesus). And that led me to the thought — why not ritualize Christmas Anticipation by celebrating the opening of one gift each day starting on December 25th?! When I proposed this idea of opening presents for five days in a row to my children, they squealed with approval…and voila, our new tradition of The 5 Days of Christmas was born!

The Greater Lesson on Anticipation

Anticipation can be defined as the positive angle in which we perceive something. With deeper thought on this, I realized that anticipation teaches children many beneficial things including:

  1. Patience-building
  2. Savoring the moment. Savoring is a form of appreciation and gratitude which naturally inspires happiness within.
  3. Trusting in the future, to trust life, and a belief that good lies in the waiting.
  4. Holding a feeling and belief in something that you do not necessarily see…which is the precursor to manifesting by law of attraction.
  5. Dealing with uncertainty in a positive light.
  6. Exercising that positive feeling of hope. Hope is what keeps our emotions of uncertainty on the positive side.
  7. Delayed Gratification — Research shows children with delayed gratification skills lead happier, more successful lives as teens and adults.

Anticipation Is Part of My Secret Recipe For Optimism!

Hope + Anticipation = Optimism

Hope (requires belief something is possible) + Anticipation (excitement for the future) = Optimism (A positive outlook on life)

Recipe Directions: Combine equal parts of hope + anticipation and enjoy the feeling of optimism!

Winnie-the-Pooh and my son got a taste of the truth — that the joy of anticipation can be greater than the actual event itself. As we adults have heard time and time again, the real reward (gift) is in the process (the journey), not the destination!

Wishing you all the joy anticipation can bring! Happy Holidays!

Longshore Boys with Homemade Advent Wreath, Ready For The Holidays

Angeline Chew Longshore is an Emmy Award nominated television writer and producer. She is a mother to two young boys and hosts an iTunes podcast and a blog called Your Sensible Girlfriend’s Guide To Life at sensiblegirlfriend.com helping women navigate life with sensible strategies, mindset and inner wisdom. For more parenting strategies and tips with Angeline, join Your Sensible Girlfriend’s Guide To Life Mastermind Community. Angeline says, “I’ve been there myself, and I’ll Go There With You, Girlfriend!

Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on December 2, 2016.

Originally published at medium.com

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