As an adult, you know that the joy of the holidays doesn’t just come from opening presents. No, you get most of your happiness from watching others – namely, your kids – as they excitedly rip through wrapping paper and celebrate their new wares. The joy is infectious, and it makes every single holiday season as memorable as the last.
Still, you want to make sure that your brood understands the real meaning of this season —giving. Teach them to help others and treat them to holiday cheer with these 4 tips:
1. Edit Your At-Home Holiday Celebrations
We’re not saying that you should turn down your festiveness by any means. However, if your tree’s overflowing with presents or your home looks like the White House pre-Christmas, you might want to take things down a notch. Your kids will get the wrong idea about what the holidays are all about if you present them as an over-the-top, expensive, present-centered celebration.
Instead, focus on starting some family traditions that you can look forward to every year. As one example, you might cozy up and read The Night Before Christmas on the 24th. Having everyone cuddle in front of the fire while reading the holiday classic will instantly become an annual activity that everyone enjoys.
The same goes for the presents you place under the tree — how much is too much? It’s up to you to decide, of course. Some parents go with the gifting mantra of want, need, wear, read. They buy one present from each category, ensuring that the holiday’s fun and festive without being too commercial.
2. Give Back
Giving a gift to another person fills us with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Your kids might not understand that yet — they might just be the ones opening presents on Christmas. If so, give them the opportunity to hand out gifts to see how wonderful it feels.
One way to give back is with money that they have saved. If your child doesn’t have piggy banks or jars for their cash, set them up now to prep for next year’s giving. Most parents encourage their kids to divide cash between save, spend and share piles. When Christmastime rolls around, then, your kids can empty the share container and choose where they funnel their funds. There are plenty of kid-friendly charities out there, so read their missions and let the little ones decide where their money goes.
You and your children could also volunteer your time and energy to help with a charity event. You might spend the day boxing up holiday dinners at the food bank. Or, you could adopt a child in need and go shopping for the gifts they want for Christmas. Helping others is a big part of giving back — your children will gain a lot from volunteering at this time of year.
3. Include Them in Shopping
The people involved in your child’s life are certainly on your Christmas list. From sports coaches to babysitters to classroom teachers, you have lots of gifts to give those who are helping to raise your little one. Your child can come with you to go shopping for all of their gifts. It might seem like too much of an effort, but you can make it simpler by giving them a selection of gifts to choose from, for example.
Let’s say you want to give your child’s teacher a gift card to a local coffee shop, and you want to present it in a mug. You can take your son or daughter to the shop aisle with glassware and let them choose the cup they want to give their teacher. It’s just a small task — and it might seem like more of hassle to bring your child along with you. But they’ll get satisfaction out of helping and giving a gift, so a lesson will be learned.
4. Set the Right Example
Finally, as a parent, you should embody the behaviors that you want your children to emulate. So, before they can get good at giving, you have to, too. Volunteer and share your time with those who can’t afford Christmas on their own.
Invite elderly neighbors over so they aren’t lonely at the holidays. Raise money for a charitable cause. When you give back, your kids see you. Many times, children will end up following in their parents’ footsteps, so your behavior can create a giving atmosphere from here on out.
Don’t stop with Christmas, either. Sure, this season’s a great time to give back and help others. But you can volunteer your time and energy all year long. You can show your appreciation for loved ones and colleagues, too. And, once again, expressing gratitude shows your kids to do the same.
Ultimately, the holidays aren’t about the presents you get — they’re about the love you give. Your kids will learn that with time, and you can help them get there. These four tips are just the beginning of a beautiful holiday season, this year and every year that your family gives back.
Jennifer Landis is the founder of Mindfulness Mama, a blog where she talks all things #momlife, marriage, mindfulness, and everything in between. A thirty-something mom of two, Jennifer spends her limited free time practicing yoga and pilates, sipping tea, and reading with her littles. You can find more from Jennifer on Twitter, @JenniferELandis.
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