By: Jessica Aldred
For many families, it seems like the holiday season has become increasingly material focused- at least that’s the honest truth in our house. As Christmas approaches, our children become increasingly aware that the big man is watching and we’re all too guilty of using their naughty or nice status as a threat against their Christmas list fulfillment. As my husband sat at our kitchen table with ads spread out, contemplating his annual Black Friday game plan, I found myself thinking “this is the representation of the Christmas holiday that we are instilling in our children.” I was a bit taken aback. In our attempts to raise well-adjusted, empathetic and caring children, we had neglected to address the importance, or meaning, behind the holiday and all the non-material things that go with it.
As I silently brainstormed ways through which to teach our children the act of giving, helping and goodwill to all, I looked at them and wondered just how I could teach, or instill, these ideas in a way that their young minds could understand. I made a list of ways we could contribute to both our neighborhood and our children’s internal development. I hope you’ll find it helpful and share some of your own ideas for doing just the same.
- Find out what non-perishable items your local food pantry needs and make a donation. Explain why you’re bringing food, who it will go to, and why, all in an age appropriate way of course.
- Ask them what they’re thankful for and encourage them to share things of non-material nature. Likewise, when they ask what you’d like Santa to bring consider sharing some non-material answers like ‘healthy children’ or ‘a fun family day’.
- Sort through old toys and pick out some that they’ve either outgrown or lost interest in and donate them to children in need. In doing so you can not only help children in need but also make way for any new additions you may find under your own tree this December.
- Allow your children to do some of their own holiday shopping and embrace the giving end of the holidays. Our town offers a Holiday Shopping Workshop each year through which our oldest can go and pick out gifts for his VIP’s on his own. They’re usually fairly low cost and he loves shopping for them, wrapping them, and looks forward to seeing everyone open the gifts that he has picked out specifically for them.
- It doesn’t have to be a once a year activity. As you shift your clothes from season to season or your children outgrow their clothes, make bags to donate and let them be involved in taking them to your local drop off points and explaining what you’re up to.
- Take it day by day and look for little ways that you can help others and be a good example to your children each day. You don’t even have to talk about it. I find that my children take note and will often bring it up on their own later. Some recent examples include helping someone reach something on a high shelf at the grocery store, holding doors for others or offering to help a neighbor rake some leaves.
- Make holiday cards for our soldiers. This can be a fun activity to do with a group of children in lieu, or in addition to, an annual cookie decorating party. There are lots of great organizations that would love to receive your creations!