“Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps—means a little more.” ~ The Grinch
When I was a kid, Christmas could be summed by three key things.
- An overweight, bearded man in a funny red suit.
- Trying to impress said bearded man with acts of kindness to ensure my place on the nice list.
- Waking Christmas morning hoping to find the largest haul of presents I could ever imagine, which would surely skyrocket my popularity at school.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was bought up in a good Irish-Catholic family, so I knew all about Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, and the wise men. Although, somewhere in my 6-year-old mind, I’d also managed to morph the wise men into a gang headed up by the “Jolly Red Guy” himself, Santa. Simply put, Santa was in charge of making the gifts that the wise men bought to Mary and Joseph.
You could say I connected the dots in a somewhat unusual manner, but nonetheless, in my 6-year-old mind, I believed I understood the spirit of Christmas.
Much to my mother’s frustration and quite possibly many other parents the world over, Christmas to me was still very much about what I got—without a thought for the costs, where it came from, environmental impact, or what the true meaning of giving is.
Generally a well-behaved child, Christmas could bring out the spoilt brat in me. If Mum couldn’t afford what I wanted, then there was no doubt that Santa would provide—as long as I’d been good.
Sadly, we are hard-pressed to escape the commercialism of Christmas unless we live off the grid in the middle of nowhere. There’s a good chance, try as we might to avoid the grand marketing machine, the big old fat guy and his sack will be forefront in your kids’ minds this December.
So, how do we mitigate the influence of the global marketing machine? Prevent the kids from turning into ungrateful brats? Or at least get them to think a little beyond themselves in the season of overindulgence? Read on let me share some ideas.
Santa’s Repair Workshop
A few weeks prior to Christmas is a great time to introduce the idea of Santa’s repair workshop. You see, much like you and I, Santa too likes to do his bit for the environment, particularly with the polar ice caps now melting faster than ever.
Together, gather up those pre-loved toys that may have been outgrown or in need of a little repair. Then place them under the Christmas tree for Santa to collect one night. Santa and his band of talented elves will fix and then donate these to other children in need.
A variation on this for older kids is getting parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles to spend an afternoon sorting through and fixing up toys together, then donating to a local charity.
This is a great way to encourage family time as well as the values of reuse, recycle, and repurpose, not to mention decluttering the house.
Encouraging kids to make or buy presents for one another is a great way to shift their focus away from themselves. Why not take this one step further and suggest they do the same for a stranger?
Encountering a little resistance with this one isn’t uncommon. We’ve been led to believe that Santa has unlimited resources. Rest assured this quick reminder should do the trick.
Let them know Santa generally gives one to two presents to each child at Christmas, but the rest of the gifts come from family and friends. Some families in the world are too poor to give anything extra, so it is nice to help out.
Prepare a Christmas Hamper
The good old Christmas hamper is always a welcome addition to anyone’s home. It can help ease the financial burden and food insecurity that families can experience during this time, and provides a good nutritious meal when the weather is less hospitable.
Putting together a few items to gift to another family or local charity is a nice way to help others have a Merry Christmas too.
Volunteer as a family
We can all be a little stretched financially at Christmas so another option is to volunteer some family time to a cause that is important to you all. After all, they say “time is money” or as I like to think of it, “time is the currency of change.”
Write thank you notes
Writing a list of wants for Santa is common practice this time of year, but less common is to actually show gratitude for what we receive.
To help encourage gratitude, why not get your kids to write thank you letters to Santa and others they receive gifts from? Help them to focus on why they appreciate the gift, something beyond it’s fun to play with. Here are some sentences starters to help:
“It’s special to me because…”
“It reminds me that…”
“It helps me to…”
So, there you have it: five simple ways to brat-proof your kids and give a little more meaning to Christmas.
By encouraging gratitude, giving, selflessness, and recycling in this season of overindulgence—maybe just maybe, Christmas will mean a little more.
Let us know what you’ll choose to do this festive season to help create a better world.