Teaching Children How to Receive Gifts Graciously at Christmas

Wrapped Christmas GiftsOne of my family’s Christmas traditions was my father’s Super Secret Surprise, followed by a not-so-secret letdown.

My father meant well, but any time you build up something for 24-odd days it’s bound to disappoint. He carried on all the same, saying his gifts weren’t from Santa Claus or our mom but a specially selected treat just for us. The gifts tended to be more sophisticated than our little minds could appreciate, so Dad’s surprises went over like the proverbial lead balloon.

I didn’t bother disguising my disappointment. I was a kid after all … right?

The Super Secret Surprise eventually went the way of the 8-track tape and Pauly Shore’s career. My brother and I were kind enough not to bring it up after a while.

The guilt I felt from giving my dad such a negative reaction never wavered. Not then. Not now. It comes to mind this holiday season as my children anticipate a crush of Christmas gifts.

My wife and I will be downsizing the holiday as much as possible, picking up a few items from Craigslist and Target but making sure their stockings are stuffed with sweets. Our extended family won’t exercise such restraint – nor should they. Little boys adore Christmas and the cavalcade of goodies it brings, and you’re only young once.

The Gifts that Never Go Out of Style

So how do we make our sons appreciate their good fortune without breaking out a shopworn, “there are kids starving in China” speech? It’s imperative to let your children know not everyone will receive the bounty they’ll experience on Christmas morn. It’s a chance to talk about cultures around the world – you can avoid China specifically if you wish – but the conversation should let them know to savor what they’ll unwrap on Christmas morning.

Surf YouTube for some videos highlighting cultures around the world. Visit a local museum that showcases how other families across the globe celebrate the season. Speeches are fine … to a point. Why not make it a multimedia presentation?

A little charitable work is another solid option. Your children may be too young to work in a soup kitchen, but they can certainly watch you prepare food to send to a local shelter. They can even help decorate the packages. Modeling matters, and the sight of you helping others this time of year can leave a welcome mark.

You also can do what I failed to do as a child – be gracious even when the gifts you receive this year aren’t what had written on your note to Santa. If your son or daughter watches you dismiss a gift from that oddball aunt with the tacky frog collection it will tell them it’s OK to act accordingly.

The best way to help children receive gifts graciously is to do so yourself.

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