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Helping Your Kids Appreciate More than Gifts this Christmas

Raising Kids |

By the end of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Scrooge has been transformed from a miserable character to one who will never be the same after his experience with the Spirits of Christmas. Scrooge becomes someone who “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

Striking a balance between the excitement of Christmas and the excessive materialism in our culture can be tricky, but as parents we can help our children get the best out of this season. More important than the gifts under the tree are the memories that we can cultivate and nurture so that our children will understand the real magic of the season. We all love traditions (kids especially) and by creating some of your own, Christmas can take on special meaning for your family.

Here are some ideas to help make the holiday memorable:

  • December can be a busy month, so make sure you set aside some time just for family. Plan a Christmas movie night at home, bake cookies, play board games, make gingerbread houses, organize a tree-trimming party (complete with homemade popcorn chains), plan a “make your own” pizza night, or settle in with hot chocolate and a shared holiday story to read aloud.
  • Check the local calendars for holiday activities, events or concerts in your area. While some activities may cost money, there are usually some free events that your family can take part in.
  • Budget – keep cost in mind. Too many people overspend at Christmas, making this one of the most stressful times of the year. If money is tight, brainstorm ideas to cope with the expectation of gift-giving. Alternatives can include buying one gift that suits the needs (and wants) of the whole family or drawing names instead of each person trying to buy gifts for everyone. Some families opt to eliminate gifts altogether and donate to a local food bank or charity instead.
  • Encourage homemade gifts! This is easy on the budget, as well as a rewarding experience for all involved. It’s also a great way to keep kids off their devices and busy being creative.
  • Together as a family, brainstorm activities that can become your very own Christmas traditions: making puzzles on Christmas Eve just before putting out cookies and milk for Santa, caroling in your neighbourhood, a walk or hike on Christmas Day, a skate outing, a ski holiday, tickets to the Nutcracker, etc.
  • It’s also important to discuss with your children the various traditions that make up this special season in our diverse culture today. While the roots of Christmas are based on Christian traditions, this holiday has also come to embrace more than its Christian heritage and the allure of Santa Claus, his reindeer and those busy elves. For some families, this time of year is significant as they recognize Hanukkah (Festival of Lights) or Diwali (Hindu tradition) while others prefer to celebrate the concept of Winter Solstice. Each and every one of these traditions capture something meaningful about family, spiritually, and relationships.

– Dorothy Hawes is an English teacher at the Senior School of St. Michaels University School in Victoria, BC.