Santa, reindeer and elves. Lights, decorations and presents. It’s easy for children to get wrapped up in the hype of Christmas. Sometimes even us parents do. And it’s hard not to as the holiday continues to become more and more commercialized. We can’t even finish Thanksgiving before it all starts, after all.
But it’s important that children know this really isn’t what Christmas is about. Yes, it’s fun getting into the activities and memorable family time. As a parent, there’s something special about seeing the joy on your child’s face as they open the toy they were begging for; but that’s not what Christmas is about. It’s not just about receiving presents.
Christmas is about having the spirit of helping and being kind to others. It’s about being selfless and thinking of others who may be less fortunate or simply having a bad day. You could say it’s about all of us acting like Santa Claus.
So how do we teach our children about the spirit of Christmas without dampening their spirit?
In various ways we are taught to help one another and to love our neighbors. While we should help others throughout the year, during Christmas there’s even more need. As a family you could pick one or multiple days to volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. You could also participate in or start your own food, clothing or supplies drive. Far too many people – children included – go hungry, cold or without basic necessities. By serving others together as a family you will teach your children to be grateful for what they have, because so many others are less fortunate.
While we all want to spoil our children and give them everything they asked for, minimize the number of gifts you give them. If you’re a big giver of gifts you may consider gradually cutting back to ease both of you into the new tradition. Consider giving them something they want (which can be from Santa Claus), something they need (which is likely something they didn’t ask for), something practical (maybe something for school or sports) and an educational gift (something they can learn from, either with current school studies or an item they can use with a hobby or potential hobby). You could also ask them to give up receiving a gift and donate that money to a charity of their choice, or taking some of their allowance and buying a gift to donate to Toys for Tots. Cutting back on the number of gifts you give and making them purposeful will slowly but surely teach them that Christmas is not all about the presents.
To spread the idea of giving throughout the year, you could ask your children to put aside a portion of their allowance and pick a charity to donate it to at the end of the year or to use it to do something nice for someone else who is less fortunate. Not only will this teach them the concept of helping and giving to others, this will also show them that they don’t have to spend every dime they have.
The spirit of the season also includes simple but meaningful intangibles such as kind gestures towards strangers. Encourage them to open and hold the door for others, to pick up something from the floor when someone has dropped something, letting someone go ahead of them in line somewhere, helping someone reach or carry something, and simply smiling and saying hello to someone when you pass by.
By no means am I suggesting doing away with the lights, decorations, treats and believing in reindeer that can fly. It’s all good fun and makes for fantastic family memories. Just remember at the end of the day that the true spirit of the season comes from the heart and is based on the idea of helping and giving to others.
About Today’s Contributor:
Jennifer Chung is a parenting expert and co-founder of Kinsights.com: part parenting community, part online health record. Kinsights provides parents with a safe place to seek answers to their questions while also helping them track their child’s health information. Organize your child’s growth and developmental milestones, immunizations, medications, allergies, and more. Connect with Kinsights at https://kinsights.com to learn more and sign-up! You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter (@kinsights).
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