Parenting Vivian | 25 May 2011 02:39 pm

Parenting Tips For Christmas Time – Turning Plenitude Into Gratitude

There is no better time than in the midst of a global economic crisis to re-evaluate our financial priorities. And with the Christmas Season fast approaching, with its unforgiving sense of commercialism, many of us are painfully aware of just how much this worldly predicament has impacted us personally. Stores have been decking their halls the moment the Halloween inventory was put away and television commercials have your children asking for everything they see advertised from “A to Z.” It’s not enough (excuse the pun) to explain to our children that there will be less this year. They have never had to want for anything before now so this foreign concept of “watching what we spend” is too difficult for them to understand. After all, doesn’t money grow on [Christmas] trees?

The other day I was shopping for Christmas ornaments in a mall department store when I heard a woman say out loud “Now there! Isn’t that just the very essence of Christmas?” I looked up fully expecting to see an angel denoting peace, or a family gathered around a Christmas tree, or at the very least, a mother with child. But to my surprise, it was a carousel of Santa with his reindeer revolving around a globe; his sack bursting at the seams with presents threatening to fall off the back of his sleigh. I looked around the rest of the store and realized that this woman’s idea of the “essence of Christmas” is the very image we perpetuate for our children. It’s no wonder they cannot conceptualize getting less this year; to them Christmas is all about the amount they get.

So how do we inject a truer meaning of Christmas into the minds of our children who only regard it as a time when they receive gifts? First, we need to examine our own beliefs about the Season. I realize that the religious theme may not fit for a lot of people, but it has to mean more than just how much money you spend on every gift or how many presents you receive. Even Dr. Seuss’ infamous character “The Grinch” understood that it did. Remember when he stood on the mountain above Who-ville listening to the Whos singing on Christmas morning. At first he was puzzled that the Christmas presents, trees and ornaments he stole from the Whos didn’t stop Christmas from coming. It came just the same as it did every other year. The Grinch realized then that Christmas doesn’t come wrapped up in a box tied with ribbons from a store. It occurred to him then that Christmas perhaps… “means a little bit more.”

So when our children receive less this year how do we handle the long faces and “hard done by” attitudes on Christmas morning? Be proactive. Children need to have a point of reference from which they come to know and feel gratitude. Children who have and get whatever they want have little understanding for what it is like to go without. They also have very little knowledge that there are people out there in the world who are less fortunate than they are. Witnessing some of those experiences and helping out to make a difference can go a long way in teaching a child about being grateful for what they already have:

- Take your child onto a medical floor of a hospital to help feed the elderly

- Volunteer as a family at a soup kitchen

- Bake cookies for a nursing home

- Donate time to a local charity Christmas campaign

- Organize a turkey dinner out of your church or community hall for your neighbours who would otherwise go without

- Collect old coats and blankets from around your neighbourhood to give to a local organizer who will distribute them to the homeless. Or better yet, go with your children and bring them to the homeless yourself

Besides giving our a children a hard lesson in the realities of poverty and teaching them the value of money and spending wisely, what kinds of gifts can we give to our children this year that will introduce a more gracious meaning of Christmas? (And not cost any money!)

- Write a story about the day your child was born, bind it and present it as a book

- Write about your favourite Christmas memory and frame it

- Give a homemade coupon book i.e. “This entitles you to a day of pampering by mom”

- Write a poem or a song about your child

- Give gifts of virtue i.e. “I give you the gift of patience when you are needing help with your homework”

- invite your children to a spend a day with you doing an outdoor activity: skating, tobogganing, road hockey, snowman making, snowball fight, cross country skiing

- A month of nightly reading of classic stories (any age will love being read to)

- A book of baby pictures with handwritten captions about how you felt at that time and what they were like as a baby

- Grant your child three wishes-anything they desire that would improve your relationship, and does not cost money i.e. that you stop raising your voice when angry, or you spend Saturday mornings together

- A book of lessons i.e. skating lesson with dad, piano lesson with mom, knitting lesson with Grandma

These ideas are really about giving the gift of time and family unity. I know they won’t seem like much on paper to your children but I promise, once you fulfill them with action your children will revel in the time spent together and will hold those moments in their memories forever. You might discover that spending time with your children gives back the biggest gift you have ever received. This just might be the Christmas no one will ever forget, in spite of dismal economic times.

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