Oh, the holidays! Is there any other time of year where we have such mixed emotions as parents? While we look forward to the sacred meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it seems harder than ever to shape the character of our sin-prone little humans. That is why years ago I began engaging my children in activities that adjust their attitudes during the holiday season.
Beginning in early November, we started the tradition of creating our own “gratitude tree” on the pantry door in my kitchen. With a trunk made out of paper grocery bags, the kids attached their own leaf each day. They would write in permanent marker on a fabric leaves something for which they were grateful. You can find these leaves at any discount store. We would then tape each leaf to the tree. By the time we got to Thanksgiving, they had a better idea of why we were celebrating and why they were grateful. They developed prayers of thanks. A new positive habit was forming. A parent could do something similar with a paper Christmas tree and ornaments cut out of wrapping paper for December.
Community service projects also helped our children get over themselves and understand the plight of others as Christmas approached. With two of our three children being frequent visitors to our local children’s hospital beginning in their youngest years, our kids understood the importance of medical care. Samaritan’s Purse not only gave my children the opportunity to pack Operation Christmas Child boxes, but we could also explore their medical missions. This opened conversations about what it might be like to have issues similar to theirs with no hospital, medicine, or basic equipment to help them. Their worldview is still influenced in their teen years by this attitude redirection when they were younger. They take less for granted and have gained a much healthier perspective, especially around the holidays.
Reaching our children right where they are, picking something with which they can identify, and then channeling their thoughts towards remembering their blessings can reshape their hearts and attitudes. Suddenly, they aren’t stuck in the overwhelming avarice of the secular holiday season. These are dark times in our world. We all want our children to be little beacons of light. And no matter what challenges may face our kids there is ALWAYS something for which to be grateful. With so many positive outlets and opportunities to give this time of year, we are wise parents to take advantage of these teachable moments to shape our children’s character.
You may as well know this too, Timothy,
that in the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian.
For people will love only themselves and their money;
they will be proud and boastful, sneering at God,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful to them, and thoroughly bad.
2 Timothy 3:1-2 TLB
How do you help your children focus on being thankful?