“Helping Children Find Christmas,” Ensign, Dec. 1981, 64
Too often it seems that Christmas is a season for spending rather than sharing. In the hope of reducing our children’s desire for many new toys and helping them feel the joy of giving at Christmastime, we have tried some new practices.
First, we control TV usage so the children do not see all those advertisements for “fad” toys which are usually high in cost and low in play value. (Occasionally the entire family watches a seasonal special together.)
Second, the children know they may ask Santa for only ONE item. This way, they put more thought into what they’d really like, and discussion with mom and dad either confirms or negates the value of that item for a particular child. We try to steer them toward toys that will be long-lasting and appropriate for their age, toys that will help them learn and will develop creativity.
Another way to circumvent the “overwhelmed Christmas,” both in terms of adults’ finances and children’s emotional reactions, is to spread gifts over the year. Getting a bicycle for a birthday is every bit as exciting as receiving it for Christmas.
For the children, receiving a single gift several times a year—the start of a new school year, or sometimes for no special occasion at all—seems to be enjoyable, and actually the gifts are appreciated more than if they were all heaped together for one big splash at Christmastime.
Hand-in-hand with helping children develop a positive attitude toward giving is teaching them appreciation for what they are given. We encourage them to write thank-you notes. (A child who cannot yet write may draw a picture of the gift.) Going through this process helps children remember that someone else has invested time and concern in something especially for them.
We’ve also developed a “sharing project” during the past few years with our young family. Sometimes it has been visits to the homes of elderly or lonely members of our ward to take fruit which the children have selected and paid for with their own money. Other times, we have helped with Sub-for-Santa projects, giving our children the opportunity to contact neighbors who’d like to donate, and to wrap and deliver the gifts. We try to internalize these giving experiences by discussing how this makes us feel and referring to them often during the holidays.
Projects like these are helping us eliminate the budget-breaking, self-serving Christmas in our own family and are teaching us, we hope, to give as Christ would have us give. Laurie Williams Sowby, American Fork, Utah