Why do adults bust our *sses, over-fill our calendars, commit to insane things at our childrens’ schools, throw parties, attend parties, and work like maniacs to cook over the top meals and try to ‘pinterest decorate” for family and friends every year during the holidays? It’s all because we’ve learned one simple lesson about this thing called holiday magic. Or maybe I’m wrong and we just need to be committed.
The truth is we’ve learned the one thing that we desperately want to teach our children. Giving of ourselves, especially during the holiday season, feels amazing! It may actually be selfish because it just makes us feel so darn good. Children are naturally inclined to want to help others. Family traditions are everywhere during the holidays – the good ones, the bad ones, maybe even some ugly ones – they’re everywhere! So it is part of our job as parents to tap into our child’s natural inclination to help and include helping others as one of our family traditions.
Three Steps to Teach Children About Sharing Holiday Magic
I’m using three steps to teach my children about the joys of giving and sharing holiday magic and joy. My children are still young and so there are not quite as many charitable endeavors they can participate in – but I want them to start early and to know that charity and sharing are both joyful and expected. We practice charity and sharing throughout the year. But at this time of year when there is so much coming their way, we really try to emphasize sharing the holiday magic experience as much as possible.
Holiday Magic That I Share With My Children
I remember as a child the excitement of the Sears catalog arriving for Christmas. I read that thing, studied it, memorized it, and made my Christmas list off of it. It was a big part of the anticipation of Christmas.
Children want things and that’s perfectly ok! I think my boys have already started their Christmas lists. I think each boy has made it very short and sweet: “Dear Santa, I want every LEGO set ever made.” Children naturally want ALL the toys that they see this time of year. I’m careful not to make them feel bad or ashamed for wanting things. That seems like a lot to expect – even adults want things and there’s nothing wrong with that. I never want to make them feel undeserving, unworthy, or ashamed for wanting things.
Television ads and catalogs this time of the year show them everything they don’t have and try to convince them that they would be happier people if they just acquired this one thing. While I acknowledge that there isn’t anything wrong with wanting things, I remind them that they can’t have everything. And I frequently teach the message that things can’t ever make them happy. It’s sometimes a tough sell, but concrete examples help a lot.
I also explain that catalogs and commercials are made for the purpose of pointing out all the things that they don’t have. The advertisers want to make you feel bad and to make you feel like buying their product will make you feel better. We talk about how focusing on what we don’t have can make us sad. So I hope I’m laying a foundation for them to think critically about commercials and media in general and also for them to take the opportunity to be thankful for all they do have.
I want my children to experience the anticipation of the season, including time together with family, sharing with others, helping others, decorations, sights, sounds, music, gratitude, and of course presents. The more they experience, the more I hope they will appreciate the holiday magic and joyfully share their holiday magic.
Children Witness Holiday Magic
Next I enjoy telling my sons how much I enjoy giving and sharing joy and happiness, especially during the holiday season. Since my sons have started the Lego list (you could call it a Christmas list, but Lego list is just so much easier and accurate…), I’ve started talking about some of the charitable things that I want to do for the season. I like finding opportunities to do something more personal than making a financial donation. I typically go through local organizations where we can choose a specific family to help. They have identified items that they need for themselves and their children. This is so much more rewarding than just writing a check.
Children Share Holiday Magic
Once I started to share my plans for helping others during the holiday season, they eagerly left the Lego lists behind and joined my plans to help others! My four year old said, maybe there’s a family who doesn’t have a house who could use our help. My seven year old said, even if they have a house, they still might not have gifts for Christmas; so we could help them. Its very rewarding to tap into a child’s natural instinct to help others. Once you tap into this natural tendency, then they will experience the delight of helping others and be forever hooked!
As the season approaches, I will ask the boys to explore more ways that they would enjoy being of service both during the holiday season and year round. And if you want to find ways to help your family share holiday magic, here are some resources that may help you find the right match for your family
Other Ways For Families to Share Holiday Magic
I share our family’s traditions for lots of things and I’ll share our traditions for the holiday season in a few weeks. But until then, I’ve asked some really wonderful family bloggers to share some of their stories about helping children learn to give and share holiday magic from their hearts. Jump over to their sites and get more great ideas:
Raising Kids Who Give Back from Mary Anne at Mama Smiles
Short Term Missions: What My Daughter and I Learned in Mexico This Christmas from Alicia Michelle at Vibrant Homeschooling
Christmas Charity Shoebox from Niki at Play & Learn Everyday
Family Volunteer Opportunities for the Holidays from Jacquie Fisher at EDventures with Kids
100+ Acts of Kindness Roundup from Vanessa at Mama’s Happy Hive
25 Acts of Service Ideas for Toddlers from Kara at Kara Carrero
Kids Who Serve Others – Spreading Cheer from Michelle and Kira at Sunshine & Hurricanes
Service Ideas for Kids from Carolyn at The Pleasantest Thing
20 Service Projects for Kids to Fight Hunger from Dayna at Lemon Lime Adventures