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Teaching children the true spirit of Christmas!

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Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanzaa, your child may well be focused on only one thing—the gifts he or she wants to receive. For many of us, it's a financial struggle to give children the gifts they long for, and most of the time we have to jump through hoops to even find them. Often, many of those toys are quickly forgotten as our child moves onto the next “must have.” And even if money is not an issue, we’d all like the gift-giving process to be more meaningful for our children.

I believe that the best way to teach children to be grateful for the gifts they receive is to help them to understand the true meaning of giving. A few years ago, two dear friends of mine donated money to a homeless shelter in my family's name. I was extremely touched by their act of thoughtfulness—and my daughter thought it was pretty great, too.

Here are ten simple suggestions to help teach your children about the true meaning of giving:

1. Read a great classic such as The Gift of The Magi or its updated version Good and Perfect Gifts by Barry Moser. Storytelling is an effective way to teach children about important concepts.

2. Instead of buying gifts, help your children create their own homemade gifts. Baked goods or art projects are wonderful ways for kids to give of themselves. Creating something with their own two hands forces youngsters to take the time to think about the gift and the recipient.

3. Take your children to a senior home during the holidays. Many of the residents miss their own grandchildren, especially during the holidays. Buy a small plant and give it as a gift. Every time it needs to be watered, it will serve as a happy reminder of this special visit. Seeing the happiness they bring to others with their mere presence will make children feel special.

4. Ask your children to go through their old clothes and toys and put a package together for less fortunate children. Encourage them to write a note to the future recipient to make the giving a more personal experience.

5. Let your children use part of their allowance to buy the gifts that they want to give. This is a great way to teach them about saving, giving, and sharing. 6. Set financial limits on the amount of money your child can spend. This is a way to start a precedent of not spending a great deal of money on holiday gifts.

7. Try creating emotionally meaningful gifts, such as an album of old family pictures, poetry, or a homemade book of Grandma’s favorite recipes. By observing you, your children will be less likely to rush off to the mall for gifts when they are older.

8. Allow older children to volunteer at a homeless shelter, and help serve the holiday dinner. Seeing people who are truly in need will make a lasting impression on their hearts and minds.

9. Let your children help you write holiday cards and assist in wrapping the presents. Allow them to feel as if they are part of the holiday festivities and really helping out!

10. Most importantly, be sure to make a spiritual connection. After all, that's what the holiday season is all about! Show your children that you value the spirit of the season by taking part in a religious ceremony, making cookies for the members of your local fire department, or donating food to a soup kitchen or shelter. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!

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