As Christian parents, we have a desire to cultivate a servant’s heart in our children, especially around the holiday season.
Know that when you teach your kids to serve others at Christmas (and year-round), they learn compassion, humility, kindness and thankfulness - and in developing these values, their Christian walk will strengthen.
As you begin to start your kids off on their journey of serving others, here are a few important things to keep in mind:
Christmas is about CHRIST.
Christ is the reason for the season! So teaching your children HIStory is very important. This must be done at an appropriate time in an appropriate way that is truthful and engaging. Make it a point to read and study together as a family to learn about Jesus throughout the year - but particularly during this season as we celebrate his birth and life!
Serving others has nothing to do with monetary "things," but rather the desire within your heart.
There's no denying the impact the Christmas season has on giving, especially to those less fortunate. Don’t let this season or any opportunity pass you by without showing the light of Christ to those around you. Everyone has something to offer to others - whether it be a kind word of encouragement, a sweet gesture, a hug, a listening ear, or, yes, monetary and material support. If you are unable to or choose not to buy gifts, give your time via volunteering for a reputable charitable organization, your church, or work - and bring your children along to introduce them to volunteerism.
Serving others also has nothing to do with age.
Young and old! There's something for everyone! Remember, even young children have the mental capacity to understand and relate to basic ideals like sharing and caring about others. But it's up to us - as parents - have age-appropriate conversations with our children to explain each situation when the time arises, as well as how what they will do/give will help the receiving party.
Begin to introduce and foster these values to them early.
Then gradually offer safe and age-appropriate opportunities to allow them to experience and mature in these areas as they grow.
Here are some ways to help others for Christmas that even the youngest children can take part in.
Gather New and Gently Used Toys to DonateThere are also many opportunities to "adopt children" or even families at Christmastime where you provide children of a certain age and a certain sex with items on their wish list! Throughout the year, find opportunities to gather unused (new) and gently used items for donation. This can be easier said than done ~ especially for very young children! But this is where the conversations must take place to explain that other children can use their toys since they have so many, or don't play with certain ones, etc. If it’s too hard for your little ones to part with their toys, then go ahead and just go shopping for a few new and nice things you can give away! You could give these to someone you know who might be financially struggling this Christmas or find a local organization where you can physically bring the items.
Having your children actually go shopping for the gifts makes the experience more tangible to see where their gifts are going is super helpful for them in understanding what serving really means.
Serve at a Local Mission or Shelter
Shelters are always in need of new and gently used items, like socks, shirts, coats, and toys. Depending on your child's age and maturity level, some tasks and interaction with shelter residents or participants may be restricted. In these instances, preparations will be completed at home and final items "dropped off."
Sometimes the tasks involve sorting (by size and/or color). Other times that can be given as gifts to any kids who benefit from the mission. Some shelters are in need of people to come and distribute items to the residents.
Every person feels differently about what point their child is ready to participate in local missions or shelters so be sure to check with your local mission to see if they are collecting any particular items for the Christmas season and what their volunteer restrictions are.
Write Letters or Color Christmas Pictures For Loved One
A third way for children to help others at Christmastime is to seek out opportunities for them to use their "artistic creativity" Little kids love to color, paint, make artwork, etc. So why not use their talents to bless others. Encourage them to advantage of their creativity and make an easy DIY Christmas ornament, or color a Christmas printable page, or send a letter to family members - including grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even neighbors. This sentiment of giving goes a long way and generally touches the heart of the receiver - especially for elders who may or may not have children of their own or whose children are adults.
If you have older children too, they can join in by writing a nice Christmas letter - of encouragement and thanksgiving!
As we enjoy this holiday season, let us be mindful to take the focus off of ourselves and first and foremost celebrate the reason for the season - the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ! And with the joy that the season brings, let us also remember to enjoy time with our families and seek out opportunities to bless others through pray, gifts and/or service.
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