Compassionate acts of kindness

WHAT are you getting for Christmas? What’s Santa bringing?

Chances are your child has heard these questions multiple times recently in past weeks. It’s all understandable but — with the emphasis on getting — the questions diminish the wider sense of Christmas as a time for giving.

“We need to look at ways to get children thinking about Christmas as a time for giving, to practically involve them in giving, not just pulling out the money, but doing something,” says parent coach Val Mullaly, who recalls a personal special childhood Christmas memory – “helping needy children in a soup kitchen scenario” at age 10.

“Ask your child to think of something they know would make somebody happy, perhaps creating a home-made Christmas card, making decorations for the tree or making cookies for a neighbour who might be lonely over Christmas,” says Mullaly.

She gives an example of an eight-year-old busking — he played the violin — and raising over €150. “He went with his mum and spent all the money on toys which he donated to the Society of St Vincent de Paul Christmas toy appeal.”

The traditional Christmas message of goodwill to all can translate into compassionate kindness and we can encourage children to embrace the season in these terms. Why not put all Christmas cards received in a basket on the dinner table and each night have the children draw one out and make a special wish for that person.

In these pre-Christmas days, get involved in a craft with your child – knitting scarves or caps to donate to a homeless shelter or for premature babies.

Mullaly recommends asking what we can do as a family to build a sense of tradition around Christmas and to make memories for children.

“Christmas is a time of rich sensory experience. Let your child be part of that richness.”

Take time to attend a carol service with your child. Help them make decorations out of pine cones, holly and ivy. Involve them in making Christmas cookies. With younger children, create a nativity scene using their dolls and teddies as characters.

Christmas, says Mullaly, is a time of intergenerational celebration, when grandparents visit or an elderly neighbour comes to dinner.

“Avoid having TV on all the time. Make space for story-telling. Before each person pulls a cracker, ask them to tell a favourite Christmas memory.”

In recession-bound times, it’s reassuring that we can creatively bypass the gloom of financial poverty and transform Christmas into a rich family experience.


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