The Connected Mom

Hit play (while you wrap gifts?) and join us for a conversation about celebrations and traditions . . . and how they can build connection in your family.

Show Notes

In the busyness of the holidays, we can easily lose sight of why celebrations matter. In this episode Becky reminds us that celebrations were actually God’s idea. So, it's worth spending some time thinking about how celebrations and traditions build connection in our family and even our faith.

Authentic, passionate, funny and Biblical all describe, Becky Harling. A best-selling author, Becky is a popular speaker at conferences, retreats and other events. She is a best-selling author and has written eleven books including, How To Listen So Your Kids Will Talk and the author of Psalms for the Anxious Heart. Becky is a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team and offers parent coaching.
Becky and her husband, Steve have traveled and ministered in over 60 countries around the world. She is the parent of four grown married kids and Mimi to 14 grandchildren!

You can connect with Becky at and
Facebook, Twitter @beckyharling, or Instagram @BeckyHarling

Becky shares tips for connecting with your children in How To Listen So Your Kids Will Talk

Creators & Guests

Becky Harling
Author of How to Listen So Your Kids Will talk and several others. Podcast host of The Connected Mom. A dynamic speaker who is passionate about Jesus.

What is The Connected Mom?

Form a deeper connection with God, more empathic connection with other Moms, and more intentional connection with your child.

Welcome to The Connected Mom podcast, where we have real conversations helping you connect more deeply with God, more empathically with your fellow moms, and more intentionally with your child. I'm Becky Harling, your host, and I have with me today my amazing cohost, Sarah Wildman. Hey, Sarah. How are you?

Hey, Becky. Doing well. I mean, I'm taking a breath because we're at the beginning of the holiday season as we record this.

Yes, we are.

We thought, hey, why not just jump into that since we're all in it together? And, uh, what specifically will we be talking about today?

Yeah, so since we're at the beginning of this holiday season, which I always love the holiday season, um, I thought about talking about celebrations and why those are so important in our families. It's really interesting because research tells us that celebrations help us remember a big event, but they also help us feel more connected to each other and like, we have a sense of belonging. And I really love that. I was reading in my Bible, Sarah. I have my Bible right in front of me, so I'm going to read this verse. And in Psalm 145 it says that they celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully, sing of your righteousness. And I love that because the truth of the matter is, celebrating was God's idea.

M. Yeah, that's something I think we can sometimes get into a mind frame, like, oh, you know, this crazy culture, we've just added all this stuff, but remembering that it was actually God's idea. And he encourages us to celebrate right in the song in all times.

Yeah, all the time.

But it's not just American culture. Right. Like, this was ancient that this happened.

Yeah. In fact, if you look at the life of Jesus, and I love this jesus celebrated like, all the time. And those celebrations, many of them were rooted in the Old Testament where God instructed his people to celebrate what he had done so that they would remember what he had done. And I also am, um, intrigued by the fact, if you read through some of the Old Testament, how many of these celebrations are linked in the family system, because God wanted our kids to remember his goodness and he wanted them connected to us. And I loved that.

That is so cool. So talk to us a little bit about some of the celebrations that we saw. Jesus participated because that's an interesting thought. I don't think we think about that too much.

No, but I kind of love it. OK, so clearly he turned the water into wine at the wedding.

I did a better party.

Yeah, he did. And actually that's his first miracle. But if you read through, um, the Book of Luke, early in the Book of Luke, you know, if you remember, Joseph and Mary took Jesus when he was twelve to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. And so again, the rest of the story of course, is while they were there, they left. They were with like a whole caravan. So it was like one big party going to Jerusalem. And of course the story that is told in the Gospels is that Jesus stayed behind him within the temple. And so if Mary and Joseph kind of freak out because they realize their twelve year old is not in this party, this traveling party, you know, and so they, they ask him and Jesus says, you know, I had to be about my father's business. But then if you continue through, uh, the Gospels, jesus celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles, which is really kind of a cool one. Um, there Israeli people would all gather in Jerusalem, they would set up these little tents. Basically it was basically like a big nationwide camping trip to remember how God had brought them through the bondage of Egypt and out of bondage. And then in the temple on a certain day, the high priest was to stand and break the golden picture, uh, to symbolize God's provision. And it's there that Jesus stands up in the temple and says, I am the light of the world. And it was crystal clear what he was saying. He was saying, I am God, I am the one who led you out of Egypt. And I just love that, you know. And so we find all these celebrations throughout the Gospels. There's Passover, there's the Feast of first fruits and of course in one Corinthians 1522 and 23, paul says that Jesus was the first fruits of the resurrection. So throughout the church history calendar, there's been all these celebrations. We're just on the cusp right now of Advent, the season of waiting, and then we come to Christmas, the birth of Christ that we celebrate. And then there's, you know, there wasn't church calendars, a uh, day to celebrate the wise men and then the day of Epiphany and you go on and on. And so celebration is really God's idea. That's what I'm trying to say here.

Yeah, that's great. And you kind of opened with the fact that it's also that piece of remembering, right? Like those are ah, pretty closely tied, right? Like it's celebrating but it's always, I guess you can phrase this better, but looking back at God's faithfulness, is that a good way to summarize it?

That is a good way. And what it does for us as families is it connects us, it connects our children. So I'm a huge fan of traditions and celebrating when we were raising our kids, we took that really seriously and it was always fun and it's a great way to build the connection with your kids.

So yes, let's pip it to that. As a mom, what do you think our role is in that? And usually if dad's a teammate on that, that's also super fun. But how does celebrations you think fit into our role as mamas?

Well, I think we have to be intentional. Sarah we want our kids to feel safe at home, connected at home. And home is a fun place where they want to be. So, you know, even aside from the holidays, I know in our home on Friday nights, it was the end of the school week, and the kids were allowed to watch certain shows on TV. And we had ice cream floats. So I would let them have soda that night with ice cream in it, and we would have snacks, and they would stay up later. But it was a celebration. The school week is done. Um, and then at Christmas, our Christmas I've mentioned this before, I think, on the Connective on podcast, but Steve was a pastor, and we often had three or four Sunday Christmas, uh, Eve services. So my fear as a mom was like, these kids are going to hate Christmas or hate the church, which is the worst. Yeah, I had to be really intentional. And so in our home, we opened stockings after Christmas Eve service. I didn't make them eat a regular supper. We had, like, pizza or snack supper for them. They got new pajamas on Christmas Eve night. Um, when we put up our tree early in December, I would give them a new ornament for that year. That kind of was reflective of what had happened in their life that year. So, like, one year, it was a soccer playing Santa Claus for JJ because he had made some new soccer team or a piano for our youngest daughter Carrie, because she started piano that year. So I tried to be intentional with those things so that the kids could remember, um, what the holiday was about. When they were really little, we would bake a birthday cake for Jesus, and we would sing Happy Birthday to him Christmas Eve night. And the cake was sometimes a mess, but it's okay. We had fun with it. Right? Right. And that's what it's about. It's about remembering, having fun and feeling this sense of connection. We are a family and we all belong.

It's really special how much kids really love that routine and tradition that comes back every year. And some kids more than others.


I have one that's like, remember we do that. Like, he reminds me and the other little guy is like, I mean, whatever, I'm here for the party at all times.

And that's okay, too. You know, every family's got to have one kid that loves to party.

No kidding. No kidding. I have to say, we're similar, uh, in that I grew up in a family of big celebrators, and it really came down to my grandmother. She was kind of the matriarch of the family. There were four children she had and then cousins. But it was funny because I look back with just joy. Every holiday that Grandma was involved in was a big deal. But there's this one photo she um, left behind a lot of photos after she passed. And I've been looking at it. There's a nostalgic photo of my grandma, and then I think it's my dad and my grandpa, and it's right after Christmas. Everybody's had their food and the gifts and all this, and they are conked out in their recliners. I mean, just yep.

That might be me this year, because it's our year to have everybody. Oh, my God, 14 grandkids.

So she just thrown herself into it, and I thought, you know, that's a good symbol. Uh, actually, I don't even know if she's pictured it. Might have been even my great grandma. But it's like that thought of, like, if you don't go all in, I mean, then you haven't done the holidays right? And I think I've kind of had to step back and go, okay, it's really important to have those traditions. Really important to celebrate, but maybe not completely be exhausted at the end of it and not enjoy it. And so that's been kind of one of my thoughts, is, what are the traditions back to some of your ideas, um, that my kids really latch onto, because maybe there's one that I just think is great, and we try it, and they're like, huh, it's more about how I look, like, how the house looks or whatever. And they're like, they could care less. Like, this other thing means way more to them. I'm still brainstorming about that.

The house is not going to look good. Um, let's just put that out there.

Although walmart movies.

Yes, exactly. So I think, um, you have to know your kids. And a tradition that doesn't have to do with the holidays for our family that I started way back when the kids were little, is we would have a big Sunday dinner on Sunday. And now my kids that live down here near us come with their kids, and they love that they're with their cousins, and the kids all go down in the basement and eat. And we always have ice cream for dessert, so it's very easy. I'm not even, like, really baking or anything. And now I've gotten so I use disposable plates. Um, so I keep it simple, but the kids love it. In fact, the other day, my six year old grandson said to his mom, you know, mom, when I get older and I get married and I have kids, is it okay if I go to Mimi's house for Sunday dinner and not yours? But they love that. They love coming. And they'll ask me, hey, are we having Sunday dinner this Sunday? And I tell them yes, because most of the time we are, unless Steve and I are away. But that's a tradition. There can be traditions where you celebrate your individual child. Like, birthdays are a wonderful time to put traditions in place. When our kids were little, um, while they were sleeping, I would decorate their door with balloons so that when they woke up, they would know, oh, it's my special day. I know. My daughter, she writes character traits of her kids all over their door while they sleep, so she's affirming them for those. I loved birthday parties. I know there are some parents out there and I don't judge this. This is what works for you that only do birthday parties, like, once every five years or once every other year. I really loved throwing my kids birthday parties. And looking back now, I don't regret that. Did it take a lot of work and planning? Yeah, but it was fun, so we tried to be creative. It's interesting because now it's a big thing to spend a lot of money and go, like, to jump city or to, I don't know, Chuck E. Cheese Pizza. I did Chuck E. Cheese pizza one year and then I was like, yeah, we're not doing that again. It's too wild. But, you know, you can plan really fun things with your kids, like scavenger hunts and, you know, when my daughter turned, I think she was twelve at that time, the mall was a little safer than maybe what it would be now, but I let her choose six friends. And the day before, I went to six of their favorite stores and pre bought like, a tiny prize for each of them. And each store would give them a clue of where to go next, you know, to have that, to get the next prize. They love that. And then I have another Christmas tradition that I still do. Now, one year, uh, I think my daughter was in second grade, the youngest one, and I threw a teddy bear Christmas tea party for her. So I used like, my Christmas cheap china. Um, I think I got it at a drug store. So, I mean, it's cheap, but I used that. And I bought through one of these marketing companies, these little tiny teddy bears that were in everybody's tea cup. And then the girls all brought teddy bears and we had food. And it was a great way to get rid of old jewelry because jewelry I didn't like anymore. I just let them decorate their teddy bears with it. But it was great fun. And now I have five, um, granddaughters, and so I do that every year. The teddy bear tea party for the granddaughters. And they love it. And it's just a silly little tradition, but it helps them remember, hey, you are precious to me. And I don't mind putting the work into this because we're supposed to celebrate. Life can be a little heavy at times, and celebrations help us remember the goodness of God, how fun our kids are, and just, they bring joy to our homes.

That's right.


I think you can't overdo that part, right? Assuring a child, how special they are. So that birthday, it's a big deal. I think also, what's cool is when your family hosts a birthday party, whether it's super simple, more elaborate, it's bringing people into your family, too, and showing them some love. And I don't think I realized that until I was a parent. The boys will get invitations to birthday parties from kids in their class. Um, and we've been able to go to a few of them now that we're kind of past all the coveted craziness, uh, and just seeing how it touches one the parents when you do attend, but then how you can, I think, show love to other families if they come. Sometimes. I know people roll their eyes like, oh, gosh. The birthday parties are chaotic, and the kids are hyper.

I love the birthday party. It's so much fun. They are. Um, my son, um, JJ, who, you know, uh, so he has two little boys, and a couple of years ago, I think it was for his oldest son, Joshua, for his birthday. Um, Josh is really into the show, how to train your dragon. And so JJ made all these shields out of cardboard and construction paper, and he made those, like, um, what are they called? You know, the hats that they wear in that show. Uh, a drawing.


And then he had all the parents he set up an obstacle course in the backyard, yet all the parents lined up on the deck with water guns, and you had to see if you could shoot a Viking and the kids would put up their shield. I mean, the parents had as much fun as the kids, but Josh will never forget that party. Right. So I think these celebrations, you may feel like, wow, this is a lot of work. Yeah. But you're building memories that are going to last a lifetime. The one thing I would say is and this is just my own bias, but I wouldn't stress over what food you serve at the celebration. If it's a birthday party, uh, you need cupcakes or some kind of cake or whatever. But I remember the year I freed myself and we gave up cranberry jelly for Thanksgiving. I mean, my mom always had cranberry jelly on the table. Nobody ever ate it, so I thought, you had to do that. And I had that when our kids were little. And every year I threw it out, and I finally came to the conclusion, you know what? We just don't like this. And that's okay. It doesn't matter, right? And so it's about the fun you can have together. So keep it simple, but have fun. But you do have to be intentional. You have to think ahead and think, what will my kids enjoy this Christmas? What will my kids really enjoy for their birthdays? How do my kids need to celebrate? Maybe it's a new life skill. I remember when our kids first learned to swim across the swimming pool. We lived in a hot climate. We had a swimming pool and I didn't want anybody to drown. So I really pushed them, um, pushed hard that they would learn to swim. And the deal was when you could swim across the pool, we would have a party. And so we celebrated each child as they were able to do that. So your celebrations don't have to be really costly. It can be, let's all decorate a gingerbread house, or let's make cookies together, or let's have ice cream tonight because you've had such a great week at school or whatever it is. But make a celebration, you know, make it fun.

Mhm cause like you said before, I mean, the world, we have so many hard things coming at us and can you do all of the pressures of school and everything? It really is. I think sometimes lately it's been helpful to be like, okay, when my kids look back on their time at home, what were the feelings they experienced? Was it safe? Was I celebrated those sort of things and we do the best we can, right? But just, uh, sometimes being reflective on that about how that looks. Okay, Becky, I'm going to put you on the spot. Let's be funny for a second. Can you think of a time of a celebration where it was a fail? Oh, I can see something happened that just, like, took it off the rails.

I can think of many, um, of.

You, because that helps us feel like, okay, everybody.

My beloved in laws really wanted us to fly to them for Christmas. And we were going to be with my husband's extended family. And, um, it was a hard thing for us because we were up the night before Christmas Eve services. We get our kids ready, we give them their gifts, we get on a plane, we fly. And I remember JJ's cousin, we got there, we were only there 20 minutes, and JJ's cousin just hauled off and punched him in the stomach. And JJ still talks about that, so they still remember that part. I remember a Christmas Eve service where, um, we always did these elaborate candlelight services and there was going to be a children's story. Well, that particular year, there were like 350 kids in the service. They all went racing down front where the candles were, and some of them were crawling under the communion table, and the candles are going back and forth. And the guy that was reading the children's story just wouldn't stop, you know, and Steve was like, making a sign for him to cut it off and he didn't stop at all. And my kids were older at this season, so they were grabbing kids who were knocking over things and we were afraid the whole church was going to go up in flames. So you have to laugh at those things now. My kids laugh about that. And so some of these things that go awry, tell yourself in the moment you know what? I'm going to laugh about this in 20 years. If you get your child a Christmas gift and they don't really like it, it's okay. Just let them be them. And you can always do something different the following year. Right. Uh, don't expect them to be perfect angels on Christmas. They're not. They're going to be hyped up on sugar and all things wonderful. And they're going to be hyper. It's okay. It's only one day out of the year. Take pictures so that you have those memories after.

Um, that's a beautiful thing because sometimes I even have like, a photography background and I'll forget to take photos of special times. And it's like, my boys love right now. Most of them are just on my phone and they'll be looking back, remember when we did this, mom? And hopefully they'll be printed someday. But you never know. Um, but the photos really help, I think, cement the memory in their head, like, oh, remember when I got this? Or I wore those jammies?

Yeah. I think also there are spiritual celebrations, like when your child makes a decision where it's like, no, I want to ask Jesus into my heart. Celebrate that. Get them something to remember that by. I made that choice when I was three years old. And do you know, Sarah, to this day, I have the little booklet that they gave me. It's in my nightstand. And it says that on, um, that day, I asked Jesus to come into my heart. And I remember it like it was yesterday. And I was only three, so celebrate that when my granddaughter, um, she's the first of the grandkids and she chose to get baptized. Um, and so I bought her a little cross necklace because I want her to remember. Right. We took a lot of pictures. We celebrated. But it's a big deal that she decided to follow Jesus. So take those moments and celebrate them. Don't allow the busyness and the heaviness of life to rob you of those celebrations. Because I'll tell you, as your kids get older and they leave, they're not going to forget those celebrations. And honestly, you're not going to either. They're going to be precious memories to you.

That's right. I think those celebrations, it indirectly tells our kids what's important to our family. So it's a birthday, like you are important. Thanksgiving. The thankfulness Jesus at Christmas. And then, of course, all of those, like you're saying the spiritual milestones. I've even been thinking about that with encouraging my kids to memorize scripture. Like, well, they're student of the week at school. That's awesome. They get to go do something fun. Well, maybe with scripture, there's something equally as fun that shows, like, that's just as important to us as a family.

Yeah. And I think, um, a question often comes up, Sarah, to me. Um, OK, so Christmas is Jesus birthday. What about culture, right?


Um, Santa Claus, the whole theme of Santa Claus came from celebrating St. Nick, and I never got too wiggy over all that. It was like my kids knew the main reason we celebrate Christmas is because it's Jesus birthday. But Santa Claus came while we were in the Christmas Eve services. And just have fun with that. Your kids, you want them to pretend as they get older, and so it is fun to just have fun with that. Um, there are so many holidays throughout the year that you can have fun with. I mean, even St. Patrick's Day, whether you're Irish or not, hide things for leprechauns and just have fun with it. Easter, you can have an Easter egg hunt. 4 July, our little town that's like ten minutes away has this huge parade and we all go. I mean, it's wild, but we all go. And the kids love it and they get candy from the parade. And it's just the idea of we're doing this together as a family and you're building memories, and this is what we do. We celebrate. We celebrate birthdays. We have Sunday dinner. We celebrate Thanksgiving. We celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Easter. We celebrate St. Patrick's Day and Valentine's Day. Uh, don't miss out on the fun of that. As a mom, does it take intentionality? Sure. But you'll, uh, be happy you did it later, because your kids will still want to come home and they'll feel more connected to you. Mhm.

Well, I hope that listeners are encouraged, maybe even to step out and try something new. One step that you can do to just bolster that sense of celebration in your family. I don't think you ever regret it.

No, you don't. And your kids feel celebrated. It's always an opportunity to talk with them about God and how much he is for a good party. A lot of kids have this view of God, that he's up there ready to punish them. And wouldn't it be great if our kids grew up loving Jesus because he went to such great parties? That's right. It's really beautiful. So, yeah, let me close this out in prayer. Sarah and I hope today we've given you some ideas. Like Sarah said, try something little. Maybe this year, build a gingerbread house with your kids. Or maybe this year, if you're listening to this and it's closer to summer, have a 4 July party or a parade in your neighborhood. Or if it's near one of your kids birthdays, put a little effort into planning ahead. Have that party for them. Have them feel celebrated and affirm them at their party. Tell them all the things you love about them, because that's a great way to connect more deeply with your child and build them up. Let me pray for us. Lord Jesus, we love that you loved a good party. We love that you invite us to celebrate so that we remember the goodness of God. And so now, over each of our mamas that are listening. We pray that you would inspire them to take the next step, to think of a fun tradition, something they can do together as a family that will underscore their family values, but also build connectivity in the family and help them to celebrate you. Thank you for this time that we've had with them. In Jesus name, amen.

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