Build Character: Consider Christmas a Unique Cultural Experience By Latasha Schraeder

U.S. consumer spending reached one trillion dollars during the 2016 Christmas season, according to Forbes Magazine. Isn’t that extraordinary? Alas, as a nation we have lost sight of the reason for the season. By stuffing the space beneath our trees with beautifully wrapped gifts, the latest trends in fashion and the most coveted toys or gadgets we have inadvertently altered our focus from strengthening connections with our loved ones to the expectation of gifts. The Christmas holiday offers a perfect opportunity to instill in your children several character traits that will serve them well as they mature. Among these traits are: gratefulness, generosity and empathy.

Make no mistake. I am not implying Christmas gifts are not appropriate. I, for one, absolutely appreciate waking up to a gorgeously wrapped gift or two on Christmas morning. I particularly delight in watching my children unwrap their gifts as broad, toothy grins spread across their faces. Nonetheless, each holiday season I make a decisive effort to communicate something deeper to my children.

Likewise, I encourage you to have authentic conversations with your children about the less fortunate. Increase their awareness about humanity. Teach them to empathize with those who may not be experiencing the joy of benevolence and time spent with their loved ones this season.

Moreover, make this a genuine and encompassing experience. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Ring bells for The Salvation Army. Send a care package to servicemen abroad. Visit pediatric patients at the children’s hospital. There are numerous ways to personify charity. Use your imagination!

Inspire in your children a sense of gratefulness. Now is the time for them to be mindful of others. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, there are twice as many homeless children locally than there are statewide. That is a sobering statistic. Indeed, our children our fortunate to have gifts beneath the tree!

Seek ways to share lifelong lessons of gratitude and compassion throughout this season and beyond. As a parent, be intentional about rest and reflection. Unwind. I genuinely bid you and your children a very joyful Christmas holiday.

Be your child’s fiercest advocate.