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December is one of my favourite months due to the fact that Christmas is celebrated. I particularly love Christmas, but not necessarily for the religious aspect. From the materialistic point of view, I love the aesthetics of decorations, the lighting and music even in the streets. But more specifically I love the sense of giving to loved ones; of thinking about what they need and what they would like to have (but perhaps they always feel guilty about focusing on themselves and pampering themselves). It also means having more free time because of school holidays and shutdown periods and getting to spend this time with your loved ones.

As a parent I find it particularly important to pass on these values of being sensitive towards others, of caring for others and focusing on important relationships. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the time to actually stop and take the time to have meaningful interactions. Thus I always try to keep in mind what the most important things are for my family, and how I can stick to my priorities. I believe that by focusing on others, not only on the people we know but also on others in our community, we give a more altruistic and less commercial feel to Christmas.

So what altruistic things can one do with a child during Christmas?

  • Focus on experience rather than materialistic gifts.

Finding time for our loved ones and focusing solely on the quality time being spent together may be difficult. It is easy for children to view relatives and grandparents as a source of gifts and pocket-money. However, it would help foster a deeper connection if you could find the time with your child, even just you and your child, and meet with a relative and go for a walk or do something together. This type of activity helps strengthen the relationship and teaches children the value of communication and respect towards others who are present and support you in your daily life.

  • Write and give out positive messages to your loved ones.

This is similar to the above point, however for this activity you and your child need to really think about positive qualities that a person may have. This activity helps encouraging and empowering others through positive messages of appreciation. It helps by giving children the tools they need to become more emotionally aware, to have the verbal knowledge to say certain things and to be better able to communicate positively with others.

  • Exchange or give toys or books with your friends.

Children have an abundance of material things. Every year they receive items which may not be necessarily useful, and at times children simply ignore things in exchange for a preferred activity or toy. This could be a wonderful opportunity for children to be more aware of the power they have of making their friends happy by giving them something that belongs to them without expecting anything in return. It also enriches their friendship and gets them to think about the things that they really need in life and what they can do without.

  • Visit the elderly and take home-baked goodies with you.

The elderly can be quite easily forgotten unfortunately and during the Christmas period they may feel lonely and think about all the important people they have lost in their life. Visiting an elderly person; related or not, individual or in a residential setting, is a nice gesture. It helps children understand that everyone is important in the community and that people can look out for each other. It also gives your children more pride and satisfaction if they could take some time beforehand to bake or cook some biscuits or cookies to gift to the elderly when they pay them a visit.

  • Donate to groups or projects in the community.

A number of projects or community support services do a lot of good work by helping out people in need and it would be helpful to support these initiatives, especially during this period. This helps children appreciate their life and become more empowered to take action in the face of social injustice by contributing to a cause.

Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on abigail@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.