The holiday season is upon us. No matter what holiday you celebrate, there is something special about the bright colors, evergreens, and lights that make the season magical. I never fully appreciated the magic until I had children. Seeing them sing carols in school performances, get excited about decorating our Christmas tree, and anxiously wait to open presents have given me more joy in the season than I ever had as a young single adult.
Of course, there is the incessant “I want” that comes in to play (especially from my 3 year old) every time we are in any type of store. “I want that toy.” “I want that candy.” And my personal favorite- “ I want to have that toy to give to my sisters so I can play with it.” If there is any one thing that can steal my joy this time of season, it is this. So I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can foster a spirit of giving and caring for others in my children even when they are surrounding by marketing that encourages the opposite.
Here is my list of things we are going to try this season to give back and shift their focus away from themselves:
Many children do not get Christmas presents from their parents. They may not even be able to see their parents for Christmas. Angel Tree is a program that reaches out to the children of people who are incarcerated and provides them with individualized gifts. When you sign up for Angel Tree, you are provided the name of your child and their wish list. Many churches and the YMCA have angel trees at their locations or check out the ministry at https://www.prisonfellowship.org/about/angel-tree/. My kids each got to pick their “Angel Tree” friend this morning and they are excited to go to Target and pick out gifts for these children.
Holiday Gift Boxes
My kids love to decorate anything. With this idea, your family gets a large generic cardboard box and each day the kids get to add decorations to it. Place the box under your Christmas tree and fill it with items that you can share. We are going to fill ours with non-perishable food items to take to a food pantry. Some other ideas are diapers for a single mother’s organization or toys to take to a children’s hospital. See these links for some organizations that could use your donations: https://www.glennon.org/donate-to-child-life/, https://www.stldiaperbank.org/donate, https://www.operationfoodsearch.org/can-heal-hunger/donate-now/individuals/.
Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen
After that holiday gift box is full, take it to a foodbank and volunteer: https://stlfoodbank.org/holiday-volunteering/.
Volunteer at a Nursing Home
My mother did a lot of work with the elderly when I was a child. I remember going to nursing homes with her where she and her students would put on a show for the residents. When I was very young, my job was to go around and shake hands. As I got older, my mother taught us Christmas carols to sing. While it seems like a lot of work and effort for me this year in such a busy season of life, I am going to try to make it happen. If you are interested in serving at a nursing home, call the activities coordinator at any nursing home of your choice. They are generally overjoyed to have volunteers to entertain and greet their residents, especially if they bring children.
Fostering random acts of kindness
Fostering kindness in children (especially in the holiday season) may be as simple as encouraging and talking about doing random acts of kindness in every day life. This can be done at the breakfast table as the day starts and then shared together right before bed as you recap on the day. Here are some fun ones for kids: https://blogs.brighthorizons.com/familyroom/holiday-random-acts-of-kindness-for-kids/.
Sending letters to those in the military
Writing letters to military personnel serving overseas is yet another way children can give back this holiday season. There are several organizations that can facilitate sending letter to service men and women including: http://amillionthanks.org/send_a_letter.php.
Have a blessed holiday season!