Christmas can be a time of crazy consumerism if you don’t put some parameters around the silly season. Here we give you some tips on ways to cultivate a conscious Christmas and enrich the festive season with meaning, beyond new plastic toys.
GIVE EXPERIENCES OVER THINGS
While there’s no doubt kids love receiving ‘things’, there is enormous benefit in teaching them to value experiences instead. Because while a new shiny toy will be appealing for the short-term, a memory making experience, such as a trip to the zoo or a whale-watching encounter, will remain in their memory banks for life. What’s more, by investing in a memorable experience, you get to enjoy the gift with them…after all there is nothing more precious than quality time with your children. This goes for grandparents too. So perhaps suggest a visit to the local aquarium, rather than a fluffy seal toy.
CHOOSE A FAMILY CHARITY
Christmas time isn’t joyful for everyone. There will always be families and children who are less fortunate than your own. If you want your children to start appreciating their blessings, expose them to the reality that not everyone is as lucky and they are. There are so many ways to support others in need and its your job as a parent to teach them HOW. This might mean choosing a charity that is meaningful to your values and donating money; or doing some charity work in your local community with your children. Another idea is to ask your children which charity they believe is important and involving them in the process. For example, perhaps they connect with the idea of World Vision and want to sponsor a child for a year, or maybe they’d like to volunteer at the local Aged Care home. Not only will this broaden their perspective, but it will instil important lifelong values in them.
GIVE BEFORE RECEIVING
Kids naturally love being on the receiving end of present-opening. And while running to the tree to see which presents have their name on them is totally normal, a good habit to start early is focussing on the act of giving, rather than receiving. This not only teaches them the art of patience and thoughtfulness, but ultimately it teaches them to be selfless, rather than selfish. This can be as simple as asking the children if they can see a gift for someone else under the tree that they could give first. If you have siblings, they can give gifts to each other before unwrapping their own, so they can witness the joy the other person gets from being on the receiving end. Another idea is to teach them gratitude by having a gratitude reflection session as a family (‘Today I am grateful for…’), or writing a gratitude list once they are old enough to keep a journal.
USE CUSTOM-MADE (RECYCLED!) WRAPPING PAPER
We all know how wasteful wrapping paper is, even if it’s of the eco-friendly variety. One sweet way to make use of paper that has already been ‘used’ is to wrap gifts in old artwork that your children have created. As most parents will attest, if your child is in kindy or school, or even if they’re not, there is usually a huge pile of drawings, paintings or scribblings in the artwork archive drawer by the end of the year. And although it would be lovely to keep all of your child’s creations, most parents will usually only hold onto a handful of ‘best of’ selections. Instead of throwing them in the recycling bin, use them to wrap the Christmas pressies. Grandparents will be particularly enthused when they receive something wrapped in a toddler-created piece of art! Bonus ‘conscious Christmas’ points are granted if the gift inside is locally-made, handcrafted, recycled or repurposed.
CREATE A KEEPSAKE PHOTO BOOK
In today’s digital world, it is all to easy to take thousands of pictures a year and never print any of them. Photos are tangible memories. They are an important way for parents to reflect on special family milestones and a great way to remind children of all the wonderful adventures they’ve experienced throughout the year. They are especially precious for grandparents who live far away. So…go through your phone; heart all your favourite shots; download a great photo book template and get it printed. You can even make a book for each child, containing a collection of memories of the year past, which you can all review as a family on Christmas day.