Christmas time is full of excitement, traditions, and gifts. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the holidays I try to slow my kids down to intentionally think of others. We do this by dropping off cookies at the neighbors’ houses and hosting friends and family for game nights. But one of my favorite traditions that we have is The Giving Tree.
We have been blessed to be a part of an incredible church with a generous heart for people. Every year around Christmastime the lobby has a ‘Giving Tree’ decorated with sparkly Christmas lights and letters. On each letter is the age, gender, and interests of a child that can be sponsored for Christmas gifts, with a limit of $25.
My kids love seeing the Christmas decorations and are instantly drawn to the tree. I have them pick out children their age that they can buy presents for. After they’ve picked a card we keep it in a safe place, on our Christmas tree, until we are ready to go shopping.
During the next couple days, we take out the letter and think of toys that the child would like best. I like to make it as hands-on as possible having my kids brainstorm presents that they like and ask if they think other children would like them too. I also use this time to teach them that we give gifts at Christmas: to remember Jesus’ Birthday, how He is the greatest gift of all, and to show our love for one another, just like how Jesus loves us. This is a wonderful time to incorporate scripture into the spirit of their gift giving.
“We love because he first loved us.”1 John 4:19 ESV
Later that week I’ll head to the store with the kids and have them pick out gifts for their Giving Tree child. I take this time to reiterate that these are gifts for other children that otherwise might not have any and how happy they will be to open their presents. I engage them by asking them questions about why we give gifts, what we are celebrating, and why we love other people. When they’ve chosen their gifts out, I ask what they think their Giving Tree child will think of the present.
I try to engage them in the whole process to show them that this is just one small way we can show Jesus’ love towards others, they also have a sense of ownership in helping others. The more questions I ask, the more excited they become in helping find gifts for their child and the more they look for opportunities to help others.
Once the kids have chosen their gifts, we drop them off at the church. I add a lot of hype into the experience, so that they are excited to give the gifts they’ve picked out. We walk over to the tree and set their gifts underneath with all the other presents. We talk about how it feels to be generous and why it’s important to help others. We also talk about how excited they are to open their own presents when Christmas comes and how our Giving Tree children will feel that same joy and excitement.
Practicing Generosity Throughout the Year
I should let you know that I use this hands-on conversation approach throughout the year, so they are used to the process, are open, and willing to answer questions, instead just thinking about wanting toys for themselves and being stuck on that thought. I also try to include the kids in gift buying when their friends have birthdays, so they are used to picking out toys for someone else. And whenever they outgrow toys, I let them give it away and talk about how other kids will get the chance to play with them, and I celebrate their willingness to share.
I by no means have parenting figured out, but I believe instilling these concepts year-round allows them to normalize being generous and asses their emotions when they have an opportunity to give. Asking the same thought-provoking questions whether we are buying a birthday gift or a Christmas present for someone allows them to process that, “Oh yeah, I’ve picked out gifts for others before, this isn’t something new.” I think the consistency, especially with younger children, works to my advantage, so use it Mama!
Practicing this consistently also allows my children to tangibly be a part of loving others.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.1 John 3:16-18 ESV
Just as Jesus selflessly gave His life for me, I am called into that same selfless generosity. It is not enough to talk about loving one another, it needs to be shown through actions in everyday life. Instructing my children this from an early age instills a heart of generosity and a love for people. It also creates some of our best traditions as a family!
About Kiona Rassat
Kiona lives in the Pacific Northwest and has two beloved children. She is currently a homemaker and works part time doing closed captioning. Recently she has started the fun and exciting journey of selling her of succulents and herbs.
Kiona finds the most rewarding part of parenting is seeing her children's personalities develop. Her children are hilarious, and she loves the small moments they are exploring and learning about the world around them. She feels very blessed to spend time with them. Kiona finds the hardest part of this season of motherhood being aware of when to give her children grace. Learning to be mindful of when they are having rough days and need grace. She acknowledges that, "Rough days and weeks happen, and it’s up to me to actively choose to give an extra dose of grace, patience, love, and all the cuddles to get through them together."