Each year, I see dozens of requests for holiday help on social media. Particularly from those people who have kids. While there are many good-hearted folks willing to help, it’s often impossible to sort out the needy from the scammers. The closer it is to Christmas, the more overwhelming that task becomes. Even the kindest people throw up their hands and turn away.
If you are in need any time of year, your best bet is to contact organizations that can help you. Organizations that provide holiday help do their planning early. If you procrastinate you will miss out getting on their lists. Chances are, with Christmas just a few days away, if you haven’t lined up help before now you are going to be on your own to provide a holiday for your family.
Before you crawl back in bed and pull the covers over your head, take a deep breath and keep reading. This isn’t the time to get discouraged. Suck it up. Get up, Get moving. That’s what a responsible person, and a loving parent, does. It may not be everything you dream of, but what you can do will be enough. Making a great Christmas for your kids isn’t about giving kids lots of toys. It’s about giving of yourself.
- Don’t play down the holiday. Ignoring it won’t make things easier for your kids.
- Don’t give your kids false hope. Tell them that times are tough and large gifts aren’t an option this year. Even young children have an understanding of the pandemic. Explain to those expecting Santa that Covid reached the North Pole too. Many elves have been sick so Santa does not have enough toys made to go around. Lots of kids will miss out. Explain how much Santa needs their understanding. Maybe even sit down and help them write a sympathetic letter to Santa telling him how sorry they are that Santa’s workers and friends are sick. This will give some perspective to the world as they believe it to be. It will lower their expectations so that they aren’t disappointed on Christmas morning. At the same time, it can teach a good lesson about empathy and compassion for others.
- Reassure them that even without lots of presents, the holidays are still going to be fun! Then, get to work and make it happen! Your plans don’t have to be large or fancy. Doing things that are fun and different are what make the holidays special.
- Turn off the TV and turn on the Christmas songs. Most areas have at least one radio station playing holiday tunes. Holiday music will set a holiday mood.
- Deck the halls! If you have not yet decorated the house, now is the time. Pull out the stored Christmas decorations and hang them up. No décor? Make some! Kids can make paper chains from colored paper or even pages from a magazine. Use white paper to cut out snowflakes to hang in the windows. Make a garland of pine cones and other outdoor finds. Décor does not have to be Christmas-y to add a holiday feeling. Look around the house for items that can pass as holiday décor – a fuzzy blanket can be draped over the sofa. Tie a red bow around the neck of a teddy bear and sit him in a chair. A plaid scarf wrapped around a pillow makes a temporary holiday cover. Even a stack of books with red and green covers can make your home feel more like Christmas.
- Get a tree. If you can’t find a last-minute tree that you can afford, improvise! Go outside and find a large fallen tree branch. Take it into the house, secure it in a tree stand or lean it against a wall, and hang lights and ornaments from it. You might be surprised how pretty it turns out! As an alternate plan, hang garland around the living room and hang you lights and ornaments from that. Years from now you will all laugh about your make-do Christmas tree!
- Wrap up surprises to be opened instead of gifts. A wrapped package containing an old hat and scarf can be used to build a snowman! Wrap a box of your cookie cutters for a cookie baking day. Wrap a jigsaw puzzle dug out of the closet that the kids will set up to work on. Wrap a package that goes along with each of your planned activities. The kids will be excited to see all the packages knowing that each one means another fun thing to do. If you want to control which activity is done on which day, you can label the packages with the day of the week that they are to be opened. Each day, the kids open the package that will reveal the activity (or be a clue) that you have planned for that day. The rest remain unopened, to be shaken, rattled and guessed at!
- Go “light looking.” Fill a thermos with hot chocolate, pile the kids into the backseat of the car, and drive around town looking at holiday lights. This costs nothing but a small amount of gas. Or, if you live in a good walking neighborhood, bundle up in coats and hats and spend an evening walking through the neighborhood.
- If you are lucky enough to have snow… Take the kids outside to build a snowman. Have a snowball fight. Find a nearby hill and go sledding. Don’t have a sled? Slide down a hill on a large metal cookie pan or a simple piece of cardboard! Yours wouldn’t be the first generation of kids to make a sled from a cardboard box!
- Take a hike. Regardless of climate, you can dress for the weather and hike a new trail. Visit a waterfall or covered bridge. Take a walk on the beach and gather seashells, beach glass, or pretty stones. Walk a mountain trail and take photos.
- Star gaze. Take everyone outside on Christmas Eve to search the sky for Santa. Nighttime is also great for snowball fights or making angels in the snow. Serve hot chocolate. Read a Christmas storybook before bed.
- Make a Christmas collage or scrapbook. Cut out holiday pictures or use family photos to make a holiday keepsake. You might even gift it to Grandma or a close friend.
- Bake cookies for Santa. A basic sugar cookie recipe will let you make lots of cut outs using cupboard staples and doesn’t require any expensive ingredients like chocolate or nuts. If you aren’t a baker there are cookie mixes and/or place and bake cookie dough that make things easy. Let the kids decorate cookies with frosting or colored candies/sprinkles.
- Make it a game night. Pull out those old board games and spend an evening playing Monopoly, Clue, Chinese Checkers or whatever you have stashed away.
- Visit the library. Check out some fun books for the kids to read on Christmas day.
- Check out local events. Many churches have special Christmas Eve services that are filled with holiday music and candlelight. Others have children’s nativity pageants. Shopping malls often have free music or holiday shows.
- Go camping. If your weather allows, set up a tent in the backyard and camp for a night. Build a campfire, cook hot dogs and toast marshmallows. Or build a blanket fort in the living room and have an indoor campout. (Mom can cheat and sleep on the sofa!). The kids will love it!
- Volunteer. Even those in need can find a way to give. Spend some time serving holiday meals at a local shelter and teach the kids the importance of generosity. It only takes a few minutes to help an elderly neighbor by shoveling their sidewalk or raking fallen leaves. Volunteering to work at a local theater can sometimes be a great way to see a show for free! Look for other places you and your kids can help.
- Sneak off to shop. Take what cash you do have and head to your local Goodwill or other thrift store and/or Dollar-type store. Finding a few inexpensive gifts will put something under the tree on Christmas morning.
- Send the kids “wish shopping.” Have them look through catalogs and newspaper ads, or even websites, and cut out (or print) gifts that they would choose for family members if money were no object. They can even wrap up their selections and make it into a fun “gift exchange.”
- Have an impromtu holiday party. Invite close friends that won’t mind making it potluck. Ask everyone to bring a covered dish or a treat and their own beverage.
- Keep the holiday fun going. Don’t let life go back to normal just because Christmas is over. You got a late start. The kids are on Christmas break for another week. Do something fun every day through the New Year. Go places you’ve never been. Visit museums. Visit friends and relatives you rarely see. Take a winter picnic to the park or eat in the car overlooking a pretty viewpoint.
- Start a Christmas coin jar for next year. Put your loose change in it at the end of each day. It may not amount to a lot. But it will be something more than what you had to work with this year.