Teaching Children How to Give at Christmas
The Giving Spirit
A Giving Christmas
Okay, I’ll admit that it may be just a bit early for this because it may seem ridiculous to talk about Christmas in September. But, this may be just what is needed for those of you who want your children to experience the true spirit of the holiday. So, here’s an easy step-by-step process that works.
1. While your children are still young and before the TV ads make them believe that they can’t live without the latest gadget, decide on a specific amount of money that you will spend on them for Christmas. Begin saving toward that amount a year in advance. Get the kids involved by asking them to throw coins in the “Christmas” jar.
2. Just about a month before Christmas, split the savings in half. Give half to the children, divided evenly, and tell them that they can do anything they want with their Christmas money…even spend all of it on themselves. In the meantime, take your children with you while you volunteer to collect, sort and distribute toys for tots, or some other giving program.
3. Now, take the other half of the savings and use the money to adopt a family in need. This will take some work on your part, but a quick telephone call to a local social service agency might be all you’ll need to do. Often, churches have lists of families who need help at Christmas time. Make sure that your children are involved in the entire process of picking a family, buying things for the family, and delivering the gifts.
4. Tell your children about the story of the Greatest Gift of all. You know the one…where that little baby (what’s his name) was born in a stable, in a manger on Christmas day. Tell them how he came to GIVE, not to receive. Tell them about the star that guided the Three Wise Men and the shepherds to where he was. Tell them what it means to give to someone less fortunate as they are reminded of how fortunate they are. [Do this every year until they get sick of hearing this story, and they’ll be able to tell it themselves.] You will be surprised how their attitude changes about giving and receiving.
5. Take the money for the needy family and buy school supplies, gloves, food, etc. that will help the family get through some tough times. Prepare “gift box” and ask your children to add (as appropriate) clothes they’ve outgrown, books they don’t read anymore, and toys they’ve let sit idle for months.
6. Take the children with you when you go to shop for the needy family. And, take them with you when you deliver the gifts, so they will know how good it feels to give rather than to receive. Involve the children as much as possible. [Remember to point out that no one is immune to the possibility of poverty.]
7. If possible, stay in touch with your family throughout the year. Check on them regularly and see how they are getting along. Give what you can to help. It may mean just spending a few minutes on the telephone, or adding a few extra items to your grocery list, or giving them a ride to the store, or including their child in one of your family outings.
These seven steps to regaining the spirit of Christmas did not come from a book I read. In fact, my husband and I had set aside $300.00 to spend for Christmas when my three children were very young. We used half of that money to adopt a family. Only $150, but it was enough. A woman at my church who worked for a social services agency gave us the name of a single mother with five children. After we met the family, we talked about what she and her children needed. We bought gloves, notebook paper, pencils, socks, and underwear. During the year, we checked on the family regularly. Sometimes she needed me to stay with her children while she attended a night class at the community college. At other times, she needed a ride to the store. Often, I’d pick up a few extra things for our adopted family when I shopped for our family.
Each Christmas after that, we adopted a family. Over the years, we didn’t always have a lot of money to buy things for the family we had adopted. But, we had enough to share. My three children are all grown now and live in other states. Each Christmas my daughter picks one or two names off the Salvation Army Christmas three. My sons have volunteered to help with the Toys for Tots program. Giving, especially at Christmas time, has become a part of their lives, and it continues today.
If you really want your children to know and live the true meaning of Christmas, it is not too early (or too late) to begin a giving tradition. Just try it! What do you have to lose besides those horribly crowded malls with their ridiculously overpriced merchandise and mega credit card bills? Besides, that Barbie doll that you thought she couldn’t live without will lie lonely and neglected in the back of the closet while in just a few days after Christmas. Until we meet again, have a joyous and giving holiday season!