If you are a parent, consider doing something more today than just giving your children gifts and telling them to "go play."

The Family Place, a drop-in social service parenting education center for pregnant women and parents of children under 3, suggests ways to help parents use the holiday to build more cohesive family units and to increase communication with their children.

"It is a good idea for parents to establish and continue a family tradition on Christmas," said parenting services coordinator, Dolores Arroyo. "Children tend to respond best under situations where there is an element of predictability and routine."

Another suggestion would be for parents to articulate the meaning of Christmas to children and explain why gifts are given.

"In the spirit of giving, some families get together and make a surprise for another family that may live in the same apartment," said Kathy Hoover, assistant parenting services coordinator. "It is like a secret Santa idea where you leave the gift, ring the door bell and run away."

One of the themes The Family Place emphasizes to parents is to pay particular attention to a child's emotional development.

"Sometimes, the expectations parents have for children are higher than the children can attain," Hoover said. "Parents need to remember how it felt when they were children and adults were autocratic to them without explaining why."

Knowing how to listen to children can be crucial to understanding them. "Parents need to look at a child's world and see what they see," continues Arroyo. "Young children particularly see knees and shoes, so their perspective is different," she said.

Why not ask your children what they would like to do on Christmas day? Maybe a family outing to the Kennedy Center to see the National Christmas Tree or going to hear one of the free concerts. "Or maybe just staying home and popping popcorn," Hoover said.

For more information on The Family Place call: 265-0149 or 232-4508.