So I realize we are a month out from December, but Christmas trees are already popping up in home decor stores, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Since before Cove was born it has always been super important to me that he never be greedy and that he always knew what seasons/holidays were really about. I am not going to lie and say I didn’t grow up privileged. I worked hard for what I wanted, but my family never lacked food on our table, I grew up with two Christian parents who loved each other and went to private school all twelve years. I didn’t drive a Mercedes or BMW like some of the girls I went to school with or shop brand names like most of the kids in my class, but I was never lacking for what I needed. And I am lucky my parents taught me what hard work and generosity were at a young age. We volunteered most holidays, we were taught that Christmas and Birthdays were about more than gifts and when we went to stores we were never allowed to go home with a toy we begged for. I’ve heard some celebrities out there say they aren’t buying their kids Christmas presents, and I am actually so happy that they are taking a stand for the season instead of buying their kids whatever they want. And please hear me – there is nothing wrong with buying your family nice things, and there is nothing wrong with having nice things. Those things just shouldn’t be the focus. And for kids, that is a harder idea to wrap their heads around if whatever their hearts can desire is being shoved in their little faces every year. (I say that’s harder for kids, but we all know it’s just as hard for adults.)
This year, now that Cove is getting old enough to understand what things and gifts are all about, we thought we would go ahead and start some traditions that help teach him what it means to give back during the holidays. I would love to add to this list or modify it as he grows, so if you have done something with your children that works, please let me know! I love to hear new ideas.
- Operation Christmas Child. We did this as kids, and I loved it! I was so excited at the thought of doing it with my own family this year. You basically pick out a shoebox and fill it with needs and fun things for children of a certain age, and then drop it off at one of the locations with some cash to mail it. It then goes to children in over 100 countries who have hardly anything. I mean when you think about a child being happy over one single doll or a new toothbrush, it will bring you to tears. And for kids, how amazing is it to bring them to Target, Wal-mart and the Dollar Store and have them pick out the items for the box. Most children don’t even know how to leave a store without getting something for themselves, so teaching kids to pick out gifts for someone less fortunate is a huge lesson and one that also teaches them to pray for others. Since Cove will be two this December, we plan on packing boxes for boys in that age bracket.
- Give or Donate close to home. In addition to giving overseas, there are so many families and children in need right where we are. Whether it’s donating to a pantry or going through toys and donating to a local shelter, it’s important for kids to learn that helping your neighbor is an important part of the season. I think it can be as simple as baking cookies and bringing them to a neighbor or cooking a meal for someone and being their company one night.
- Volunteer. I have to say, this year it’s going to be tricky. Cove isn’t exactly at the age where we can volunteer and he will understand it, but we plan on implementing this one in years to come. When I was a kid we used to help families shop local pantries and toy shops for items for the Christmas gifts and holiday meals. As a 9-year-old girl, I remember being wrecked over the fact a mother was crying that she could pick out toys for her kids through the Must Ministries Toy Shop. In the past, Ian and I have volunteered in Atlanta the day after Thanksgiving serving food and clothing to the homeless. I can’t wait to take Cove to do it one day too.
- GET less. And for parents, that may mean buying less. I am not going to share exactly what we plan on doing because I think it really depends on what you want to do as a family, but I thought I would give some suggestions.
- Only buy 1-3 gifts per child.
- After your kids open their gifts, tell them they need to choose one to give away to someone who doesn’t have as much.
- Choose to do an experience as a family instead of buying each other gifts.
- Set a budget and stay inside of that budget regardless of what your kid’s friends are getting.
- When the toy advertising magazines come in the mail ask your kids to pick out gifts for themselves and gifts they want to give to someone else.
- Turn our attention beyond ourselves. It’s so challenging to see the needs of others if we are only thinking about the things we want. Making the season about others instead of us is a step in the right direction.
And please know that the point of this is not to prove what we are doing is best, or to make anyone else feel bad about what their family’s choices are. I simply want to encourage people who are looking for ways to give back and teach their kids what that means with some ideas. My kid is only two so I don’t have it all figured out.
The point is not depriving your child, but setting an example for them on being happier to give than receiving things. That starts with us more than any sort of plan we try to implement.
You can see from these pics, the sweet necklace from Le Papier Studio of Cove’s silhouette. I shared it on Instagram the other week. I love having such a personalized piece and I can’t wait to add to it when our second bundle of joy arrives. They have some pretty beautiful ornaments as well. You can see them all here.