Last month, while shopping at Target, my kids spotted the first artificial Christmas tree of the season.
Halloween wasn't even a distant memory before we saw the aisles stocked with Christmas decorations, wrapping paper and lights.
Seeing all of this Christmas ornamentation made my 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter giddy with delight. Suddenly, getting candy in an orange, plastic pumpkin wasn't as exciting as the thought of prettily wrapped presents under the tree on Christmas morning.
The kids were thrilled that their favorite holiday was coming up, and they asked me to take them over to the toy section. As we strolled up and down the Lego and Disney aisles, they started talking about items to put on their Christmas lists for Santa Claus.
Of course, this is exactly what I expect from my kids before Christmas. They get excited anticipating presents from Santa, friends and relatives. Though I can appreciate their enthusiasm, I also want them to recognize that Christmas is about much more. As adults, we know that the Christmas holiday isn't all about decorations and receiving gifts, and I think it's important for kids to understand this, too.
Since Christmas embodies the spirit of giving, there are ways to teach kids to be kind and charitable. When our son was little, my husband and I started a new Christmas tradition. We took Ryan shopping and had him pick out toys to donate to Toys for Tots. We explained to him that there are many children in need, and that the toys we donate will help them have a brighter Christmas.
Though I know he and my daughter don't remember doing this when they were very young, nowadays it's something that they ask to do. It's heartwarming to see them picking out toys for other children. They really put a lot of thought into each toy they select.
During the holiday season, there are many different ways to help out those in need. A lot of companies, schools and churches offer ways to support certain charities.
My son attends Mary Bryant Elementary, and this month the PTA is sponsoring a Week of Caring. Each day, items such as food, clothing, toiletries, and toys are collected for various charities. This is a great way for kids to learn about giving and helping others in the community.
Generosity doesn't always have to involve buying or donating gifts. There are other ways to brighten someone's holiday. Kids can color pictures or decorate Christmas cards and take them to a nursing home. If you have a friend or neighbor who may be alone for the holidays, help your kids bake cookies for them.
These days, Christmas comes with commercial aspects that we're reminded of every time we walk into a store or go to the mall. As parents, we need to give kids perspective during the holiday season, and teaching kids to be charitable is a great Christmas gift for everyone.
Danielle Hauser is a married mother of two who lives in the Westchase area.