thankful kids

How To Make Christmas Meaningful For Your Family 

By Theron and Mizpah Glenny

 

Christmas is a magical time of year, but it can also be stressful for parents trying to figure out how to make it meaningful for their family.  Every year heading into Christmas, we find ourselves excited for Christmas, but also asking ourselves some tough questions.  Like you, we want our kids to see Christmas as more than just getting gifts.  We want Christmas to be meaningful to them with memories they will cherish into their adult life.  

In our last article, we talked about how to prepare your kids for the holiday season by establishing traditions that will help your kids gain the proper perspective. In this article, we will walk through some specifics that will help you as parents ensure Christmas is meaningful for your family. 

What experiences do you want your family to have?

This is important to think through.  What do you want Christmas Eve to be like?  What about Christmas Day?  Plans will likely vary from family to family.  For us, we want life to slow down for maximum enjoyment. We want to spend it together cherishing each other. On Christmas Eve, we spend it with close friends and read a special story together when we get home - see our book recommendations at the end of this article. 

For us, we start the day doing something that puts things in perspective. Last year on Christmas day, we made a fire in our fireplace and let the presents just sit under the tree. Miz played the piano, we sipped hot drinks and sang some songs. It was awesome! It is His birthday, so why not start the day celebrating Jesus?  Have fun with this. Make a plan.  Just don’t make it about getting stuff.  

But, what do you buy your kids?

Every parent asks this question.  You want to get your kids some things, but you want the gifts to be meaningful.  There are so many choices that it can be overwhelming!  We got the following list off of Pinterest and thought it was very valuable and wanted to share.  This will help you keep Christmas shopping simple, but meaningful. 

Here’s how to shop for your kids for Christmas:

1.     Something they want - this can be a big ticket item they’ve been asking for…obviously within your financial budget. 

2.     Something they need - sports equipment? Hobby related item? 

3.     Something to wear - Clothing not usually bought…maybe something brand attire or fun accessories.

4.     Something to read - we are huge on this. Is there a book?  Magazine subscription?  We’ve bought books like Tim Tebow’s Through My Eyes for our son that has had a big impact. 

5.     Something to do - Movie ticket? Event or game ticket? 

6.     Something for ‘Me’ - This is a keepsake like an ornament, photo album, framed photo, letter or something you made for them.  Theron loves writing letters. 

7.     Something for family - Board game? Movie? A family outing? 

Note, not all categories need to be bought for, but this list provides you with a solid road map.

How do you teach your kids to be thankful? 

Thankfulness leads to contentment.  It’s painful to watch (and hear) a whiny, selfish and ungrateful kid.  Here’s how you can prevent that this Christmas. 

1. Prep them - walk through what Christmas day will be like.  Tell them they will likely receive some gifts from you and others.  Ask them what they should do when someone gives them a gift.  Don’t expect them to thank people who give them gifts if you didn’t instruct them to.  Prepping them gets them thinking about being thankful no matter the gift.  

We tell our kids they probably won’t get everything they want and there may be gifts they get that they didn't want…but that someone thought enough about them to shop and spend their hard earned money on them…and for that, they need to be thankful.

2. Give them the look! - Yes, you know that look...the look that communicates, ‘What did you forget to do?’ We learn by repetition, so it is totally fine reminding your kids throughout the day to thank each person who gave them a gift.  Make sure they look the person in the eyes, be vocal, and give hugs.  

Lastly, we want to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!  May it be filled with love, hope, joy and peace.  Be blessed.  

Recommended Christmas tunes:

•    TobyMac - Light of Christmas

•    Kim Walker Smith - When Christmas Comes

Recommended books to read as a family during the Christmas season:

•    The Best Christmas Ever - Junior Discovers Contentment  by Dave Ramsey

•    Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp 

•    Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco - This is an absolute tear jerker 

This article also appeared in The Daily Herald today. 

How To Prepare Your Kids For The Holidays

By Theron Glenny

If you are like us, you love this time of year.  Your house has a slight aroma of Thanksgiving dinner goodness and you are starting to decorate for Christmas.  It is a very exciting and full season so we wanted to pass along some advice to help you make this holiday season special by helping you prepare your kids.  

We can’t encourage you enough to help your kiddos process through what they are thankful for. Don’t assume they have already processed through things.  Take time to connect on a heart-level with them by asking them what they are thankful for.  

As parents, we consistently put effort into making sure our kids hearts are in the right place.  A heart in the right place to us is ready and willing to be respectful, to love, to honor, to receive instruction and to serve.  A heart gets to that place by first being thankful.  We live in a very 'me-focused' culture.  Being thankful helps take our eyes off ourselves to see the big picture.  It provides the right perspective.  It’s the cure for arrogance, depression and entitlement.  

What traditions do you have or that you can establish this year that can help your kids get the proper perspective?

Thankfulness requires a response.  It requires action.  For us in the Glenny home, we make a Thanksgiving list together. We think back over the current year and remember what God has done for us.  This tradition may sound simple, but it is extremely powerful. It helps both us as parents and our kids see the big picture because we decided to be thankful. …and it’s fun to look back at what our kids wrote on our thanksgiving lists from past years. 

What about you?  What will you do?  Here are some questions to ask yourself…

  • What books will we read together? 
  • What movies will we watch, and why? Remember, think about the message and/or perspective you want your kids to have.  How do you want them to think and feel about Christmas? 
  • Who will we go visit together?
  • Who should our kids buy gifts for? Is it someone in their class? Teacher? Sibling? Grandma? Take time to ask them questions to help them think through what they could give. 
  • When our kid receives a gift, what will we teach them to do? This can be difficult especially for younger kids, but teach your kids to thank the giver right away and to keep eye contact so they are genuine. For younger kids, this takes time to develop. 

Joshua House’s Operation Christmas Blessing

Most parents want their kids to be thankful and generous. Developing generosity in your children does not happen overnight.  It takes time and deliberate effort.  We look for opportunities to develop generosity.  For example, another tradition for us is participating in Joshua House’s Operation Christmas Blessing program.  It’s an amazing program that helps parents in need provide their children a great Christmas.  We set aside money in our Christmas budget so our kids can sponsor other kids (whom our kids do not know as identities are kept confidential).  We usually choose kids who are around the same age as our kids.  When you sponsor a child or teenager, you are told whether they are a Male or Female, what age they are and what they would like for Christmas.  It’s a fabulous way to bless families and help your kids think beyond themselves and develop a generous heart.  

Please note, there are still kids who do not have sponsors yet for this Christmas.  If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please call Joshua House directly at 814-684-2032.

Make a plan to ensure your traditions happen.

Our last piece of advice is the key to making the holiday season special.  We find that if our plans are not on the calendar, they do not happen.  There’s a big difference between us saying we want to do something and actually scheduling it.  Take time to think through the things we listed above and then schedule them.  You’ll be glad you did as your Christmas season will be special for your entire family. 

This article also appeared in The Daily Herald today.