My older son started making his Christmas list three months ago! Actually, I remember doing the same thing when I was younger because it was so much fun to dream about all the magic of Christmas that was coming my way. The holidays are such an exciting time for children; all the mystery, hype, gifts and treats. Honestly, being a parent has renewed my Christmas spirit because it is so exciting to see my children’s’ joy and wonder at the holidays. It is touching when family members lavish gifts on my kids and I love surprising them with treats, fun outings and activities. But amidst all the presents and trimmings, I also want to teach them to keep the meaning of Christmas in perspective.
I want my kids to grow up knowing that the joy of Christmas is in giving, not getting.
Today’s Teachable Tuesday is a bit unconventional but stick with me.!Teachable moments aren’t just about passing on academic, creative or critical thinking skills (though they are all very important to cultivate in their development). Teaching our children to develop good character and a moral compass is perhaps our most important job as parents next to sharing God’s love and our faith with them. The holiday season is the perfect time to impart selflessness, generosity and a sensitivity to others, regardless of our child’s age. I would be honored to share with you how our family cultivates this spirit of service. There are many, MANY ways to get involved and serve your community and these ideas just scratch the surface! By modeling generosity of our time, finances and emotions, our children will get to see kindness and selfless love in action. I can’t think of a better gift to give them!
SEND A CARE BOX OR SPONSOR A CHILD IN NEED
Nothing puts the holidays in perspective like an awareness of how blessed we are. Children in our community and all around the world cannot even fathom the kinds of presents and celebrations that have become so commonplace to us. Christmas is the perfect time to help our children understand how to be grateful and also be generous with what we’ve been given.
As a family, we pack shoe box gifts for Operation Christmas Child and sponsor presents for an orphan at a foster home in China. We sit down as a family, watch the promotional videos from the organizations we support and discuss the meaning behind what we’re doing. We love to tell the story of St. Nicholas and his heart for the orphaned and impoverished in his community. We let the boys pick out the items that go in the shoeboxes and gift bags so they feel a genuine connection with the child they are shopping for. I wish I could let you see how palpable their excitement is for giving gifts to children they have never met. It’s a beautiful sight to behold!
Other organizations to consider:
VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME TO SERVE
Sometimes it is easy to write a check or drop money in a box (which is always very needed) but the gift of time is an incredible asset and sacrifice in this busy world. Even if money is tight for your family, you can always give the gift of service to your community and make a big impact. I want my boys to know that laboring for others, especially without receiving any thanks or reward, is the heart of Jesus. Taking the time to serve and love on those who have nothing to offer you back is a blessing with eternal ramifications.
As a family, we volunteer at The Salvation Army to sort toys and pack food boxes. We also work with a local pantry program that provides food boxes to locals schools where children are food insecure on holiday breaks. I love helping in these ways because it’s easy for children to work with adults or independently in an assembly line. Even when my boys were babies, I would strap them to my back so they could be a part of the excitement and serving too! Yes, it can be hard work hauling and packing boxes, but it is such a wonderful time of connecting and seeing the work of your hands produce big blessings!
I’ll never forget walking with my son on one side and a crying mom on the other as we helped her carry toys and food to her car. She was so grateful and shared how relieved she was that her children wouldn’t be hungry on Christmas. I had the tremendous honor of hugging her and praying for her. I was struck with humility as I realized how much I have to be thankful for and how much God has provided for me, even when I don’t always appreciate it. I’ll never forget that moment and I hope Parker never does either.
Christmas can be a lonely time for those who have no family or who feel forgotten by their loved ones. What better way to celebrate than to show them they are loved by US?! Since I was a child, my parents took me to nursing homes regularly to do talent shows, pass out cards and sit and talk with the elderly that live there. I’ve had the privilege of taking my children to do the same and it is one of our favorite activities. We have met so many beautiful and sweet souls who are just looking for someone to talk to and spend time with. Plus, you will never meet a more exuberant group that is excited to love on your little children! This is an activity where I really feel like we have received far more than we’ve given as we’ve gained wisdom, stories and life lessons from the lovely ladies and gentlemen we’ve encountered.
The holidays are a time where we like to love on our furry friends too! Local shelters are often overrun on the holidays with pet surrenders and short-staffed on volunteers. We like to visit our local shelter year-round to play with the cats, take the dogs for walks and help in whatever way is needed. The shelter staff are great about partnering us with kid-safe animals that just need a little extra love and attention in their stressful environment. God cares for all His creatures and I want my children to take that responsibility to heart as well.
SHOW APPRECIATION FOR THOSE WHO SERVE US
I love activities where even the smallest of children can help! And I love getting to show appreciation and respect for those who serve and keep us safe. During the holidays, we bake goodies to take to the local fire department and sheriff’s office. Many times, local servicemen and women don’t get to spend time with their families because they serving US! Christmas is a wonderful time to talk to our children about community leaders and helpers and the sacrifices they make for us. Too often they are disrespected and underappreciated in today’s society but I want to make sure that my children are grateful for the position they hold and the sacrifices they make. Even my toddler loves to get involved in stirring, measuring and rolling dough! We usually make cards and pictures to go along with the treats and we get the BEST reaction when we drop them off.
NOTE: I encourage everyone to do this activity, but remember to check with your local agencies for guidelines and rules. Unfortunately, some police departments can’t accept baked goods anymore out of concern for their officers’ safety.
Remember, it’s not important WHAT you’re doing but the heart behind it. Pick one or two things you are passionate about and serve with your whole heart. Your children will pick up on and emulate your behavior. Be present, be joyful and be engaged in your service. That is the best legacy you can pass on to your children. Merry Christmas!
I would love to hear from you in the comments below! What activities of service does your family participate in? How has it changed your lives?
Spencer is the founder of The RADiant Chef (theradiantchef.com), a place for whole health: mind, body and spirit. As someone who has dealt with anxiety, depression, infertility, pregnancy loss, an eating disorder and PCOS, her passion is loving on others and walking alongside them in their life journey.
Spencer lives in the Shenandoah Valley with her husband and two miracle boys where she is a homeschooling mom and blogger. She welcomes you on her new blog where you can find recipes, posts on wellness topics, community and lots of love as you discover your radiant self!