In less than 36 hours, our children will be waking up wide-eyed to see presents in the double digits waiting for them under the Christmas tree. Every year I promise I’m not going to overdo it and then, with presents from relatives, grandparents, friends… and throw in Santa and ourselves, we end up with way more than we’d planned. I wonder, will they be thankful or will they be blasé about the whole thing.
We even started early this year, asking each of our girls to choose one thing they’d really like from Santa. Watching their eyes glaze over while they pawed through the Argos catalogue circling everything they possibly could, hubby and I both realised we both had work to do to make sure our kids got the true spirit of Christmas.
At 4 and 2 years old, it’s a hard concept to grasp- having empathy for those around you, being grateful of what you have and being able to show kindness and appreciation to other people. But we have to start somewhere. And in fact, like most things, it’s probably better to teach them early rather than later.
This year, we decided to be very intentional about it.
1) First thing was to remove half the gifts under the tree. Birthdays will come up, 28 day return policies… whatever. It’s just important that they appreciate every gift they receive, or at least most and not open them, toss each aside and look for the next one. Reducing the number is one step towards appreciation.
2) We started saying grace at every meal during the summer but somehow it got lost in the hubbub of our lives moving continents and settling down again. But I’d like to reintroduce that idea or at least the idea of thanking God, (the creator, your own spiritual equivalent) for three things we are grateful for each day. We started doing this at night but this can be done at anytime… supper time, bedtime, even on the way home from school.
3) Writing thank you cards in advance. No doubt after Christmas, it will seem like a chore. But before all the excitement is over and while they’re still in anticipation mode, it would be great to capture that energy to thank those who sent them presents, those who invited us for Christmas lunch or those we’d like to remember this holiday. I think it also helps prepare their minds to think about the giver rather than it being one big unwrap-fest in under 3 minutes.
4) Model the behaviour you want them to possess. What random acts of kindness do I do in my everyday? I can’t say I’m the best at volunteering and going out of my way for strangers or people in need. So this year, I decided we’d do some baking and take it around to our neighbours. The girls loved the idea of baking for a day and were so into it. Baking three different types of Christmas cookies and truffles in one day was a bit stressful but after closing my eyes to the mess, I did eventually enjoy it. We decorated each one and put them in little boxes ready to take around to friends and neighbours. They did ask, ‘why are we giving them away Mama? Can’t we eat them?’ But once they got it, they were all in. They couldn’t knock on enough doors! We were even discouraging them from knocking too many times or avoiding certain doors. For them, it was all or nothing. To our surprise, two neighbours dropped by our flat that very night and gave us champagne and cards in return! A great lesson for them to learn ‘the more you give, the more you receive’. Even I was inspired afterwards.
5) Teach them to give…. Today I took them to Tiger, each with £2 in their pockets to buy presents for each other. They each chose something, wrapped it themselves and are so excited to give it to the other that it even became a taunting game where one got mad she didn’t know what it was! But the message is there. It’s better to give than to receive.
I think we nailed it. We’ll see on Friday when the madness begins.