Keeping children focused on the true meaning of the holiday season can be a bit challenging. With television, magazines, radio, and all other media bombarding our little ones with the message of “buy me for Christmas,” their attention can be easily become focused only on what they can get during the next few weeks. The number one strategy to keep your children focused on the true meaning of the season is to make sure that you stress giving over receiving. Your kids will take their cue from you.
My kids create a Christmas list every year to remind me of all of the goodies that they would like for Christmas. It always delights me to read their lists and I truly enjoy going shopping for them and watching their expressions as they open their gifts on Christmas morning. However, it’s very important to me to make sure that my children stay focused on the real meaning of Christmas and not just the gifts. The number one way that my husband and I do this is by staying focused on giving rather than receiving.
One of the ways that this is done in my family is by making sure that giving is fun for the kids. If your children are forced to wake up at 4am on Christmas morning to go work in an inner city shelter, then naturally they might become a little resentful - unless of course they enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, giving to other people is something that your children should absolutely learn to do, but they’ll actually be more willing to do it if they’re having fun in the process. They’ll also begin to look forward to giving to others which means that they’ll internalize it and continue to do it even until adulthood. Here are 5 tips that have helped my family in this area:
Turn giving into a quality-time activity. It’s always a challenge to get in enough quality time with the kids, especially if you’re a working mom. However, this time of year, you can be quite creative with quality time experiences with your children. You can choose one day every week until Christmas (or if you have the time, this can be a daily adventure) and decide on a nice gesture for that day. For example, you can go visit the elderly at a nearby retirement home, bake cookies for a sick neighbor, go sing Christmas carols for sick children in the local hospital, or any other activity that you choose. Then excitedly prepare for the activity together and really focus on enjoying each other before, during, and after completing the gesture. Not only will someone else be truly impacted but your kids will also enjoy spending quality time with you.
You can also turn giving into a game. Why not create your own version of Secret Santa? Your children can select one (or two, or three, or however many you decide) people to give a present to each day. The kids should come up with a creative way of delivering the gifts without being seen. For example, if your children decide to leave a gift for a person sitting at the bus stop who looks a little down on their luck, then the kids will have to figure out a distraction and a way to leave the gift next to the person - without being noticed. This turns the giving into a game as they come up with the most creative delivery strategy. Also, keep in mind that the gifts don’t have to be elaborate and expensive. It’s the little things that mean the most to people during the holiday season.
Be sure to remind them of the spiritual part of Christmas. If you’re a spiritual person, then quite naturally, you are teaching your children the importance of being thankful to God as well. Whenever the focus seems to become overly centered on gifts and receiving, then redirecting their attention back to how much God loves a cheerful giver is also another strategy that helps kids remember the true meaning of Christmas. And spiritual kids always seem to experience more joy when they focus on God.
Also, give your kids a choice. When trying to teach our kids to be better givers, we sometimes make all the choices for them. However, when they are more in control of how the family gives to others, they tend to take more ownership and experience more joy in the giving process. Let your kids take turns deciding how the family is going to give. The giving doesn’t have to be limited only on tangible gifts; acts of service are also great ways to bless other people.
And one of my all-time favorite things to do is to write a commerotative book. Encourage your kids to take pictures and write down the details about their experience. As they write down all of their giving adventures, they get to immediately relive the joy that giving created. Then turn what they wrote into an actual book including what they wrote and the pictures. This is so easy to do these days with so many self-publishing platforms. The book will allow them to re-experience this joy in the days, weeks, and even years to come.
It’s natural for your kids to be excited about receiving gifts on Christmas day. However, it’s very important to create a sense of balance with your kids. Turn giving into something fun and they’ll enjoy giving as much as they enjoy receiving.