Tag Archives: simple Christmas

Give away: a new holiday tradition

As the holidays approach this year and gift-giving (and shopping) begins, I can recognize one true fact: My kids don’t NEED anything.
That being said, I still want them to learn about the blessings of giving and receiving. I also want them to learn about personal limits. I especially want them to learn that not everyone has it so good. Moreover, that leads into learning that they have a responsibility to others. If you are interested in teaching your kids similar values, here’s a simple exercise that can get them thinking along these lines.

Go through their room and belongings – together – and create a giveaway box. ‘Oh, I do that regularly’, you may say. Great! But this time, do it intentionally, and with your child. Maximize the teaching benefits such a time provides:

  • Your child will probably be getting new stuff for the holidays. Fill a box with the toys, clothes and such that no longer fit, are used up, or are broken. Talk to your child about sharing the wealth!
  • Fix what you can and donate it. By doing this WITH your child, they learn about thrift, value and recycling. It’s a wasteful society that says something only has value when it’s new. In addition, it’s satisfying to make something be useful again.
  • Follow through on your donations…together! Let your child research charities that are gathering toys for the holidays. Let your child figure out the details of getting that box of clothes to the right group whom can put it to use. Kids are hungry for leadership roles; let them organize a neighborhood clothes or toy drive for the needy in your area. (Remember to lend your adult supervision to all of their efforts!)
  • Talk about the toys they got last year at the holidays. Are they still playing with them? Why or why not? This is another great way to get your kids thinking about the value of their possessions. Talk about how many hours it took to work last year to have the kind of holiday your family enjoyed. Ask your child if they would be willing to work that long for someone else’s enjoyment.
  • Create ways for your children to give to others. Once they’re thinking about helping, it’s natural for kids to come up with simple solutions to the problems they see. Some of those gently-worn clothes could be sold at the local consignment shop and the money used to buy a Christmas dinner for a family that wouldn’t otherwise have one. Those no-longer needed books and puzzles can be cleaned up and given to the local homeless shelter. And on and on!
  • After the clean-up work is done, have your kids create their wish lists for this upcoming holiday season. Talk about a family budget and what is reasonable for ‘stuff’. Consider encouraging everyone to forfeit one item on their list and then use that money to improve another family’s holiday season.

By doing this regular ‘chore’ as a family project, you can share your values with your precious children and start a holiday tradition that can have tremendous meaning for your family for years to come!
Colleen Langenfeld delivers deals, tips and creative resources to working moms who want the most out of their homes, families and careers at www.paintedgold.com . Sign up for our free newsletter and get an online Creativity Tool kit as our gift to you!

I Just Love It

You know the scenario. You’re sitting at the family Christmas gathering and your ten-year-old opens one of Aunt Martha’s itchy homemade sweaters. Or Uncle Bobby, who’s been swearing to lose twenty pounds for years, opens an exercise cycle. Of course, if Uncle Bobby follows the politeness rule, he’ll say, “Thank you, it’s just what I wanted.” (Then he’ll conveniently “forget” about it in the basement or storage closet.) your ten-year-old may not be as skilled at pretending as Uncle Bobby, but kids know enough to know that any answer other than “Thank you, Aunt Martha, I love it” will raise the roof.

There’s nothing wrong with pretending you like a gift that someone has consciously bought because they think it suits you, you’ll like it, or it will be good for you. The saying “It’s the thought that counts” is a truism. Unless you habitually don’t put much thought into your gifts. Have you stopped to look at other people’s faces when they open your gifts?

The excuse “I’m too busy” only goes so far, and your children know it. If you can take time out of your week to exercise (or not, in Uncle Bobby’s case, and who knows, Uncle Bobby might have a physical reason for not losing those twenty pounds), rent a video, go jogging, go to the movies, you can put some thought into the gifts beyond recycling last year’s “I love it” items or heading to the mall. It’s important to let kids know that regardless of the gift, sometimes politeness above and beyond the call of duty is required. However, you personally can create more honesty from your kids and with your kids when it comes to gifts.

Remember when your ten-year-old made you a clay ashtray? You don’t smoke, but you cherish that homemade gift. Or how about when your parents hung your macaroni ornaments on the tree and your pictures of Santa on the fireplace? You genuinely said “I love it” and meant it. Your children could tell. Your parents were sincere with you. You are what you give, how you give it, and how you receive gifts. It’s easy to moan that the true meaning of Christmas has been lost for our children. It’s harder to turn away from the traditional gift-giving grudge. Some tips:

* Start making homemade gifts of your own. Gifts of food, especially Christmas cookies, are always in season, and people genuinely love cookies.
* Start a Christmas cookie party or recipe swap with your family and friends. Get everyone involved. (Be sure to make some healthy alternatives for Uncle Bobby.)
* Make a donation in someone’s name, say to a breast cancer organization, a hospital, a homeless shelter, a nursing home.

* Be creative. Perhaps if you can’t buy everyone a nice gift, you can take friends out for a pre-Christmas dinner instead of everyone frantically buying gifts.

* How many times have you said, “Oh, I don’t want anything, I’ll love whatever you give me?” Kids are great at making requests. Take a lesson from them. It’s dishonest to expect others to read your mind and then be disappointed about the gifts you receive.   Encourage others to be honest about what they want. Even if you can’t afford it you can ask for some wish list items, or say that you make most of your Christmas presents.
* Always let your children know you love them regardless of any gifts that are exchanged.  Above all, remember that the first gift of Christmas is love, and that’s something no one can fake.

Kristin Johnson
Christmas Cookies Are For Giving

10 Ways to Keep Your Expectations From Making You Crazy This Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time! Everyone is full of good cheer, the milk of human kindness and 20 pounds of candy. All gifts are given with love, are exactly the right size, are exactly the right color, or exactly the right thing for exactly the price you could afford. Right?  Well, if YOUR Christmas seems to fall short every year, here are some ways to keep your sanity and enjoy the unexpected joys that the season brings.

1. News Flash! You are not perfect! Nor is your family! Give up the myth that they should be!

2. Don’t make the season complicated! Simplify! While elaborate decorations may appeal to your decorating ego, putting them up takes time and energy that may be best spent elsewhere this Christmas.

3. Everything doesn’t have to be homemade. Pies, cakes and cookies are perfectly acceptable if they are bought at a bakery. And your children just might celebrate if you decide not to make that knitted scarf this year!

4. Relax. Take time out from the hustle and bustle to just sit with a cup of tea or cocoa and read. Or take a long hot bath. If you take some time for yourself, you will be better able to cope with the holiday chaos.

5. Let other people pitch in. You are not the only one who can do Christmas! Ask someone to do tasks you usually do, such as make the eggnog or cookies. And then LET THEM DO IT – even if they don’t do it just the way you want! Don’t constantly look over their shoulder.

6. Don’t make the season an ordeal for your children by expecting perfect behavior. Children can easily be overloaded with the food, sights, expectations and social whirlwind of the season. Again, simplify for their sake – and yours!

7. If you can afford to hire a cleaning service before company comes for Christmas, do it! Give it to yourself as a Christmas present! You will enjoy the season more because you won’t be worn out from scrubbing that tile with a toothbrush!

8. If you can’t afford to pay cash for a gift, wait until next year to buy it. Save for the gift in the meantime. The short term thrill of buying the gift will be more than overpowered by the struggle to pay it off months into the new year.

9. Get out of the house and walk when you begin to feel stress. It will help you calm down and keep off those extra pounds. And it will give your family a break from you!

10. Don’t do guilt – to yourself and others. Don’t use your expectations of the season as a weapon against your friends and family. Enjoy what comes this season. It may not be what you expected – it may be better!
And remember – love doesn’t come wrapped in paper, or tied with a bow. You can’t get it for $19.95 if you call now or for two easy payments of only… you name the price. But love is but in the corners of a small child’s smile, the twinkle of a father’s eye or the drape of an arm across your shoulder. If you are expecting something else, you just might fail to recognize it! How crazy!