I turned 13 right before Christmas 1999. I was in seventh grade, and the most important thing in my world was fitting in with my friends at school. Which is why I had to have American Eagle clothing for Christmas. I begged for those clothes. I did not get those clothes.
Today, I recognize this as a teachable moment. Then, I just thought my mom hated me and wanted me to look like a loser in my generic, department store shirts. Oh, 13-year-old girls.
What I also recognize today was the seed that my mom planted. We discussed many things, but the most important was the importance of focusing on the blessings I do have rather than worrying about the stuff that I don’t.
As a teacher, and now as a parent, I want my kids to enjoy the holiday season. It is a magical time. I know that lessons in gratitude will come in spontaneous teachable moments. But, I also hope to find ways to gently plant those seeds along the way.
Over the past few years, through the miracle of Pinterest and other media outlets, I’ve started compiling a list of ways to shift the focus of the holiday season from “what am I going to get?” to “what do I already have?” Making sure that this Season of Giving is really a Season of Gratitude.
Introduce the topic through a few good books. There are few things my little dude loves more than bringing me a book and turning around to park his behind in my lap. Water bottles and dogs are the only things that come to mind. Reading together is a great way to focus on gratitude and bond with the kiddos.
The Gratitude Jar. My husband and I implemented this a few years ago, and we have a lot of fun with it. We set the jar out at Thanksgiving, and then read through our entries on Christmas Eve. Our little one is too young to appreciate this tradition, but its is a great way to get older children involved!
Spend a little time making special, handmade gifts. Baby hand prints in clay. Finger print mice on a Christmas ornament. Tiny jars of handmade hot chocolate. The ideas are endless. But the goal is the same: show your loved ones how much you appreciate them by giving them the most valuable resources you have. Your time and your love. My mom still has my brother’s fingerprint Christmas ornament. Twenty years and counting.
Start a new tradition to focus on making memories together. My family started a tradition of decorating Christmas cookies together every Christmas Eve. At first, it was a great way to spend time together. Now, it has taken on a whole new level as an Ugly Cookie Contest. Hey, we all have our quirks! It is something that we all look forward to each year, so that we’ll have a new round of cookies to joke about for the next 12 months. Find something that works for your family. And then jump in!
Rethink how you do gifts. Have you heard of the “Want, Need, Wear, Read” rule of gift giving? I love this! It is a great way to indulge in the season of giving, while focusing and limiting the actual gifts to be given. As a side note, I hated getting underwear and socks as a kid, but as an adult? I look forward to those the most!
Have a cereal dinner. I read about this concept several years ago, and I can’t get over it! The average family of 4 spends between $166-206 a week on groceries, or $7.50-$9 a meal. Rather than spending that $9 on a roast, potatoes, carrots, salad, and cake for family dinner, put $9 a week in the piggy bank and eat leftovers. Or cereal from the cupboard. Or a premade frozen meal. And at the end of the month, donate the money in the piggy bank. Maybe it can go to Harvesters, to ensure that hungry families can eat, too?