For kids, Christmas is very much a time for getting gifts. They can get caught up in the bells and whistles of Christmas and the excitement of getting what they want under the tree on Christmas morning. But, what about those who aren’t so lucky?
As adults, we often get caught up in the stress of the season, going to crowded stores, trying to get what everyone wants at the best price possible. It’s hard to feel like helping others when we feel so overwhelmed ourselves.
I’m no exception, and often find myself grumbling about crowds and forgetting to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. However, the spirit of helping others is what make the season so special and is the most important thing that I can teach my daughter. So, I’ve had to be deliberate about exposing her to the more selfless side of Christmas.
Ever since she’s been 4 or 5, we’ve established our own Christmas-giving traditions…things we look forward to doing and that force us to stop thinking about gift-getting and instead focus on what we can do to help others during this holiday season. Here are some of the things we make a point of doing each year, to truly get us into the Christmas spirit!
Operation Christmas Child (http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/) – This is a wonderful way to get kids involved, by having them fill a shoebox with items for a child in need (e.g. hygiene items, school supplies, hair accessories, toys, etc.). Select a gender and age for your shoebox and then pack it accordingly (my daughter always chooses a girl that is her age, since she’s an ‘expert’ on what they would like). The Dollar Store is perfect for this task…we generally fill the box for around $20 (make sure you refer to the list of do’s and don’ts provided on the website). It’s also a good idea to bring along the box you’re going to use (our local Salvation Army stocks the Operation Christmas Child boxes, but you could also just use a standard shoe box), so that you can test things to see how they will fit.
Salvation Army kettle drive – This one has been around for many years and I gladly give to them over the holiday season. Kids love it when they can actually put the money in the kettle, so get them involved. For many years, I sat with the kettle at a local mall after work one day during Christmas (call your local Salvation Army and see if they can use your help). When my daughter got old enough (she was around 7), I had her join me. Admittedly, it can be a little boring for children, but if you choose a location with quite a bit of activity, it helps make the time go by faster.
A Book for Every Child – This is a program that is offered through our local library. Certain book retailers (e.g. Chapters) provide a discount for books bought to be donated, then they give the books to the library who distributes them to local children. My daughter loves this one because she absolutely loves books and can’t imagine what it would be like not to have some of her own. I set a price limit and then have her choose a cross-section of books for different age levels and genders.
Food Bank – Almost all of our local grocery stores have a big bin for donations to the local Food Bank. My daughter and I take a little trip to the grocery store and then place our items in the box. Check out your local grocery stores for a similar program!
School food drive – Every year, my daughter’s school organizes a food drive for the local Food Bank, so we send in some canned goods and other non-perishable food items (I tend to send one or so a day, over a few days, since her backpack gets too heavy otherwise).
Check out this great article for even more ways that you can involve your children in helping others this holiday season. Click here for some additional ways you can help others this holiday season, and all year round!
There are so many other things you and your children can do, too…some that cost nothing at all. Just taking the time to hold the door for people or to smile and wish people a Merry Christmas, can really brighten up someone’s day! Let your child be someone’s “Santa” this year!
What do you do with your children so that they experience the spirit of Christmas (share your ideas in the Comments)?
Have a wonderful holiday season!