I am surprised every year as I talk to children of all ages around the holidays about how they do and don’t experience Christmas. I’m surprised about the entitlement that has swept through the culture of children today. But I’m not surprised about how the two correlate.
First of all, we believe it is very important for your family to be about giving this season. We think it is a fantastic opportunity for kids to be a part of what Christmas looks like walked out…at soup kitchens, sponsoring and buying gifts for a family, anything where they get to experience, not just hear the true meaning of Christmas.
We also get excited when we hear stories of what this can look like in your homes…families where each child draws a name for another child and saves money they’ve earned to choose a gift themselves. Other families give their children each money to give to an organization they choose…and take it to that organization in person. We’ve had kids give Daystar dollars and change, looking like they just gave $1000 to us at Christmas time. It means just as much to us, as a ministry. And, as people who believe in kids and their capacity for compassion and the importance of teaching them generosity, it takes on an even greater meaning.
Give your children a chance to be a part of Christmas in your family, rather than just facilitate it. Saying that, we know the easiest thing is to buy presents for everyone on your (and their) list and fill in the to’s and from’s. When we do this, we take away their ownership, their opportunity for generosity and their joy.
Instead, how about taking a Saturday this winter and giving each family member a chance to raise money by doing chores. On another day, take a family trip to the mall where each child can choose their own gift for that person. Ask them what they’d like to make…coupons are always a great gift. One 7th grade girl in a group last week told us she wanted to write down things she liked about her mom and put them in a pretty box, for her mom to open every day of the next month. How would that be for a gift and reminder for you? But she wouldn’t have thought of this without a discussion around giving. It wasn’t just that she was thinking about herself (although that’s the case, too, in their narcissistic years). It’s just hard for them to think through it in the midst of homework, making friends, sports practices, etc. Have a brainstorming night as a family about how you can give to each other. Let them pick buy the other parents’ gifts, too—starting with the finances, if possible, choosing the gift, buying it from the store, and even wrapping it. Your Christmas may look a little more DIY-ish this year, but we believe it will be full of much more pride from your kids and joy from your entire family, as a result.