“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!… Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”
-Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
You may remember, about 8 years ago, that BMW commercial on YouTube with the little boy opening a gift at Christmas, followed by a celebration of ridiculous proportions as if the child caught the touchdown winning pass at the Super Bowl. Warning: watching the video make you feel uneasy, even a little sick to your stomach and dirty. It seems a little unnatural for children to be so attached to material items, even if it ’tis the season. It may be a cold, hard reminder of how we as parents may be just a little too attached to our material possessions as well. And then there’s the mom blogger…you know the one who decided to go the other extreme and cancel Christmas for her family all-together. So where’s the happy medium? Any parent would ask themselves, how on EARTH does one keep their child GROUNDED over the holiday season when we live in a culture where it’s all about the gifts, ’bout the gifts, no giving.
As fun as it is to see those bright shining faces when they open those gifts, remember that ultimately your kids will follow your lead. I happen to believe that our kids are teachers of us just as we are of them. If your kids behavior over the holidays in the past has not been the most desirable, it may be a sign for your to change up your family tradition. Here are five tips that may help parents shift the focus to giving and joy rather than the gifts.
1. GIVE FIRST before receiving – Every year at Christmas time, we hit the toy store and drop off gifts for the Toys for Tots drive at our local Lexus dealership. It’s a tradition now, and my kids look forward to it. The kids have also adopted a family through our church and were involved in the shopping and drop off to the family. Not only is it doing something wonderful for the community, but it humbles them to learn that not all children have even basics like food and shoes, let alone the latest and greatest gadgets.
2. OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW. Everything flows in life, and it’s better to circulate things like a river rather than the Dead Sea where nothing flows out. Teach your kids if they want to make room for new things, one must take the time to go through what you have and give away what you don’t use. A good rule of thumb is if you haven’t played with it or worn it in a few months, pass it on! There are plenty of local shelters and churches that will gladly take your donations.
3. QUALITY NOT QUANTITY – when I was a kid, the Christmas scene under my tree was unbelievable. We had presents practically spilling out of the room. There were so many gifts that we felt the need to race through it and open it as quickly as we could so as to move onto the next one. Recently, I’ve started to revisit my giving practices and realized that it’s the quality of the thoughtfulness of the gift, not the quantity that matter. We personally follow this simple motto now – the kids can ask for four items – one you need, one you want, one you wear, one you read. They don’t have an overflowing room of gifts like I did growing up, but they appreciate the gifts they receive way more than I ever did.
4. MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE! Kids LOVE to sing, dance and play music. Even if music is not your forte, turn up that radio with music that makes your heart sing and let your kids belt it out. Let them play instruments if you’ve got them, or get creative using pots and pans and anything else around the house. If you celebrate Christmas, sing Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus (a favorite in our family) and consider going to a Christmas Eve children’s church service every year that’s centered around music (and the children’s services are usually nice and short, like 30 minutes max!).
5. SAY THANK YOU! Every year on Christmas eve, we spend time at my husband’s family opening gifts with all of the grandchildren. You would think it would be complete chaos with 14 grandchildren opening gifts, but in fact it’s very orderly. One person is appointed to be ‘Santa’ to hand out the gifts one at a time. Each person is given their time to unwrap the gift, show everyone, and say THANK YOU to the giver.
If you manage to establish some fun family traditions that remind kids about serving the needs of others first and practicing gratitude, it can be a truly be the most wonderful time of the year! Remember, ultimately no present is a substitute for YOUR PRESENCE as a parent. Easier said than done, I know. It’s the little changes that make a big difference.
The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other. ~Burton Hillis
Also by Jen: Simple Composting Tips for Every Lifestyle
Photo: Mykl Roventine via Flickr