When the kids are little, the magic of Christmas comes effortlessly. All it takes to create a sense of wonder for your little ones is some holiday lights on the tree, a trip to see Santa and a few brightly wrapped gifts – and their joy is endlessly infectious.
When the kids start to get older, it is inevitable that they will eventually stop believing in Santa Claus. But that doesn’t mean that they (or you) have to let all of the holiday enchantment fall by the wayside. With just a little creativity and effort, you can make sure that the spirit of Christmas continues to endure in your children’s hearts, even as they turn into teenagers.
Here are some of the ways you can foster that spirit.
Involve the Kids in the Holiday Planning
When their children are little, parents naturally set the holiday tone and do all the planning, baking, shopping, wrapping and decorating. As the kids start to get older, give them a few responsibilities of their own. This gets them more directly engaged in the holiday, allowing them to transition from “onlookers” to “participants.”
Give each of the kids a modest budget so that they can buy their siblings small gifts and allow them pretty broad latitude as they pick things out for each other – even if what they choose is not to your taste. Doing this can help the kids start to embrace the spirit of giving and experience the holiday from a more mature perspective.
So, too, can things like asking the older kids to help with the holiday decor. Instead of hanging the lights and decorating the tree all by yourself, get your children involved. Even if the outcome is less-than-perfect, you’ll create lasting memories that will seem magical in retrospect.
Turn the Older Kids into Santa’s Helpers
Okay, your older kids know the truth about Santa and where the presents actually come from, but what about your youngest children or their younger cousins? If you’re willing to hand over some of Santa’s duties to the older kids, that will give them a chance to experience the Christmas magic from “the other side.”
Kids love to be in on a secret, so tap your oldest to take over the duty of making sure that the cookies left out for Santa get properly nibbled and the milk is drunk – or show them how to fake reindeer tracks in the snow. You can even enlist their help and rely on their creativity when it comes to finding new ideas for what to do with the ubiquitous Elf on a Shelf.
When the older kids are in on the game of keeping the holiday illusions alive for the younger ones, they can be surprisingly enthusiastic and creative – and it helps them hold onto the holiday magic within their own hearts and minds, as well.
Allow Your Family Traditions to Evolve
Every grown-up knows that the real gift people give each other is their presence and time, even if exchanging gifts remains a fun part of the holiday. As your children mature, start to shift the emphasis away from the mad chaos of Christmas morning and start some new traditions that prioritize quality family time over spending too much on presents that are quickly forgotten.
Create opportunities for family bonding by playing classic board games on Christmas Eve, sharing stories of years gone by or even working on a holiday puzzle together. Whether it’s baking an annual gingerbread house project or holding a holiday movie marathon night (complete, of course, with hot cocoa, marshmallows and cookies), you can foster a true sense of family togetherness and strengthen your family ties. These moments of connection also contribute to the warm and festive atmosphere that truly defines the Christmas season.
Keep the Surprises Coming
While older kids may be more aware of the logistics behind Christmas, surprises can still play a crucial role in helping to keep the magic alive. Consider incorporating unexpected elements into your holiday celebrations, such as mystery gifts, surprise outings to holiday-oriented events in your area or even a festive scavenger hunt.
Other ideas include surprising everybody with ugly holiday sweaters or brand-new pajamas on Christmas Eve and taking funny pictures for the family scrapbook. You can also turn Christmas breakfast into an indulgent event, complete with chocolate chip pancakes and whipped cream. You could even start an annual “holiday countdown” with pre-planned activities, like family caroling around your neighborhood, baking cookies or making ornaments for the tree – all of which are better and more interactive than any Advent calendar.
By injecting an element of unpredictability into your celebrations, you keep your celebration from becoming too routine and create memorable moments that resonate with the spirit of Christmas.
Encourage Acts of Giving
Instill the true meaning of Christmas by encouraging your older kids to engage in acts of kindness and giving. Volunteer together as a family at a local charity, organize a food drive or participate in a Secret Santa gift exchange with a twist – focusing on thoughtful, homemade gifts.
This shift towards giving rather than receiving reinforces the values of compassion and generosity. Not only does that help breathe new life into the Christmas magic, but it also helps your kids transition to a more adult perspective about the holiday’s true meaning.
Finally, remember that you still set the tone for the Christmas season, and your excitement and good cheer are both contagious. If you get into the holiday spirit and share your enthusiasm, the kids ─ no matter what their ages ─ are likely to follow suit.