Vintage Parenting 101: Christmas Concerns

As a part of my efforts to increase the accessibility of my website, I am re-posting articles from my old Parenting 101 page as stand-alone blog posts on the main site.

December 12, 2006

Q – Why are you concerned about the spirit of Christmas today?

A – Christmas has always been about relationships, even for those that don’t hold to the Christian faith. It’s about family and friends and community and “peace on earth, good will to all men.” The tradition of giving gifts has always been about showing love and making someone else’s life better. Recent times have seen the focus of Christmas shift toward materialism in a way that can be shockingly self-centered and demanding. Now, Christmas wish lists seem to be heavy on electronic entertainment gadgets that disconnect us from one another as we retreat into our own personalized digital, hi-def worlds of bliss.

Q – What’s wrong with families getting really into gifts for Christmas?

A – Gift giving in moderation can be a wonderful experience, and there is nothing wrong with giving and receiving nice things – even hi-tech marvels. However, the overspending in which many families indulge during the holiday season results in financial stresses that typically outlast the weeks of pleasure brought by the stuff under the tree. Going overboard with presents can actually train kids to become selfish and greedy, and cheat them of the extremely important life-skill of contentment. Also, it is amazing how early our children can fall into the trap of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Q – How can parents help bring back the real spirit of Christmas?

A – Begin by setting an example of contentment. Learn to be satisfied with the stuff you already possess. Face it, it’s probably more than the vast majority of the world would even dream of owning. The truth is, if you don’t learn to be content, your possessions will eventually come to possess you – not a very pleasant situation! Christmastime is a wonderful time to find opportunities for your family to help others who are really in need. If you don’t know where to begin, ask your church leaders or check out the local volunteer organizations linked on the right side of my website. Another great way to recapture the true spirit of Christmas is to focus more on family and traditions than on presents. Find ways to communicate to the people you love that they are what makes the holidays special. A final suggestion – take the Christmas season as the perfect time of year to lead your children in growing morally and spiritually. There are countless ways to approach this process, so find one that works for you and grow from there. Your children will reap a lifetime of reward, and so will you.

Q – What are some ideas for family Christmas traditions?

A – Where do I begin? There are as many possibilities as there are family members in the world! Here are just a few. Select and decorate a tree as a family – let the kids participate. An “ugly” tree decorated with family love is much more meaningful than a Martha Stewart Living tree done while the children are sleeping all snug in their beds. Include children in making favorite holiday snacks, meals, and desserts. Cooking together can be such a great bonding and learning experience for families, especially during the Christmas season. Encourage each family member to make at least one present with their own hands. Try it – these will be the presents you will remember for the rest of your lives! Have a special time of reading a Christmas story together. It could be “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (regular or Cajun version), one of the gospel accounts from the Bible, “The Gift of the Magi,” or anything else that captures the real spirit of Christmas and brings the family together. Watching that favorite Christmas movie together can also be a great tradition, if you really play it up and enjoy each other in the process. I’m a big fan of “Christmas Vacation” (pound for pound – the most hilarious movie of all time), but you could watch Charlie Brown, a claymation special, “White Christmas,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or whatever is meaningful for your family. Just make sure to enjoy one another in the process.

Q – What helpful resources do you recommend?

A – Baton Rouge Parents Magazine lists lots of great local events. Family Fun Magazine is a terrific resource with lots of creative ideas for families, especially for the holidays. Ask your priest or pastor for guidance on how to really capture the spirit of Christmas for yourself and your family.

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