Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas and Kids

It sounds cliche to even ask, and yet part of me feels like I should already have it figured out, since this will be the fifth "kid Christmas" in our family.
How do you make Christmas meaningful for young children?
How do you teach them that it's about:

(Original artwork by Keenan)

I know my kids are young, but I'm also pretty sure that Keenan especially is old Enough to grasp this. He knows the Christmas story and we talk about it and they have covered it over and over at school and Sunday school with him. But yet, just now when I asked him, "What is Christmas about?", he said, "It's about getting presents". My heart sank. When I prodded him further, he said, "It's about celebrating God's birthday", but how can I cultivate a heart in him that thinks of this First, not second??

How do I bring up kids that think of others first at this time of year (and always)? Where does a "giving is better than receiving" attitude start?

We have involved the kids with picking out things for Operation Christmas Child, and they are well aware that these are for "children on the other side of the world who don't have anything". They've picked out little gifts at the store for each other, and Philip (and Spunky), so they know that giving to others is part of it too, but I still feel that I've failed them in some way.

My question is: How do You (or did you) make Christmas real to your kids? I'm not opposed to Santa and trees and presents and all of that, but how do you make the Gospel story that IS Christmas real and alive in your child's hearts? Comment away!


Becky said...

Joia, I am obviously just learning about all this myself so I don't have any tried and true advice, but some of the things I am thinking about are an Advent calender with devotional readings and/or activities, Jesse tree, Jesus birthday cake, and learning the actual history of many of our traditions (like the real St. Nick for example). At this point I am leaning toward not doing Santa at all; it is definitely something I have been wrestling with. This blog has some great resources and this post is a helpful starting point (lots of other posts you might be interested in also):

Jesse tree info:

I also read on another blog recently about giving kids a set amount of money and then allowing them to pick out gifts from the World Vision, Compassion International, or Samaritan's Purse catalogs.

I will be checking back to see what other ideas your readers have!

Rabens Family said...

My girls still love getting gifts, but we try to constantly remind them that the reason we give gifts at Christmas is because God gave us the gift of Jesus and that He is the best gift of all.

We always do advent activities. This year I ordered an advent book calendar, since they can both read. So far they are really enjoying it.

We also make a birthday cake for Jesus and have a party. Actually, they just decided to make baby Jesus a vanilla Christmas tree cake with red sprinkles this year. ;)

We also did the Angel Tree. The girls really enjoyed getting gifts for little girls that wanted similar things to them.

Other than that, we just need to pray that God will change their hearts like only He can.

Merry Christmas!

mom e said...

Carrie has been my source of info & inspiration for things like this. Go to her FB page & go bk a few posts where she listed all kinds of ideas to do. She also listed a recipe for homemade communion bread! (I'm using my phone so it's difficult to go bk & find links for you).
Also wanted to say nice artwork, Keenan!

mo said...

p.s. While I appreciate & share your concerns re: greed vs true meaning, I felt led to encourage you, Joia, to take heart & Not be disheartened by Keenan's 1st response...I saw a Huge (good) difference in his behavior this last visit, compared to his last one. (& it was All your doing BC Phillip was gone for 6 mos). He was so thoughtful & Amazingly patient while he waited for me to"get done with what I was doing" so I cld play with him!

My point is, BC of Who You are & How you live your daily lives, your kids already " get it". You & Philip model Daily, even Hourly (!) the Christmas Spirit ALL year long. No worries, honey! The Holy Spirit's got this one.

mom e said...

lol, sposed 2 B mom, not mo. My phone too touchy, & published b4 I was ready.

denise said...

Joia, I'm with Becky. Last year I learned about the Jesse Tree and we made the ornaments at MOPs and ordered the devotional book online. You don't have to have elaborate ornaments, you can do printables and have the kids color them. It's a countdown advent to Christmas but shows the history of what led up to Jesus' birth starting with creation. We REALLY like it! (you can google it and even print off some of the devotions)

Another think I agree with Becky is we decided two years ago not to go along with Santa. Now, I don't totally ban him and his movies. I treat him like Batman or Superman. He is a fun story, but he is not the real meaning of Christmas. (this is because Quinton was SOOO into Santa I felt like I was compacting lies). We broke the news to them after Christmas when they were 3 and they were ok with it. We still visit Santa for pictures, went to a Santa breakfast fundraiser at church, and gosh - my kid dressed as Santa for Halloween! But now that they are 5 1/2 it truly has clicked in their brains that their first reaction is that Jesus' birth is the reason for Christmas.

I think moderation is a key. It's daunting to go 100% into the Santa story in my opinion! But then you can't shelter your kids and act like Santa is the devil because many of their friends will love Santa, and they will see Santa EVERYWHERE! It's about educating them, talking them through, and repetition.

Parenting can be so hard sometimes! But the first time you hear them tell their brother "don't forget that Jesus is why we have Christmas" - it's worth it!

Becky said...

Love what Denise said about Santa being a character just like Batman and Superman. I think that is the "missing piece" I have been looking for in how I want to approach Santa. He is a fun character and is based on a truly admirable person. I just think he has become so distorted by our materialistic world. The other part that really bothers me about Santa is the whole naughty or nice thing and only getting gifts if you are nice. That is so contrary to grace. The truth is we are all "naughty" which is the very reason why God gave us the greatest gift of all when He sent His Son.

Anonymous said...

I heard of a family that always got together a day or so before Christmas and each child and parent gave what they felt lead to give. Even if the child only had a couple dollars. They would then pray for different people and 'listen' with their hearts. They would together decide what person or family they would give their money. Now the kids are adults , of teens and the family is giving hundreds of dollars together as the kids are now making more money. I thought this was a fantastic and moving way to do something real as a family.
Laura :)

Kiley said...

With a large family and a tight budget my kids have learned from day one that Christmas is more about giving then receiving. It helps that the oldest has taught the younger ones about how good it feels to help others. And that Christmas is not about what you get but what you give.
First we would talk about how its good to help others all throughout the year and not just on Christmas. We set aside certain times of the year (January, May, September and December) to organize outgrown toys, clothes, stuffed animals. The kids know that these times they have to collect a garbage bag or small Tupperware bin of items to donate. They love picking out some of there favorite items to give to others. Throughout the year, if they make new friends, they usually find a favorite toy or book to give someone. Its hard for me to say "no, I just got you that" "or thats my favorite" because I want my kiddos to feel good about giving away items they find are important to them. My kids have learned through cooking and baking that they can give back to our neighbors for their kindness. We bake for our trash buddies, our mailman, our neighbors. I try to instill with my kids that even if they don't get something to open on Christmas from family or friends (this happens often) that its ok and to always be grateful. I know this is a hard pill to swallow for such younger kids, but they have learned to feel good about giving and not always receiving. I think the biggest thing is to remind your kiddos throughout the year and not just at Christmas time. And give your kiddos the opportunity to find ways that they can give back. Sometimes you will be surprised with the ideas they come up with.