Today’s featured video is a seasonal Ikea commercial that does a wonderful job conveying the message of what children truly desire for Christmas… and it’s probably not what you would expect.  This is one video that you don’t want to skip over.  

Watch it when you are free from other distractions and let the message sink in:  Our children want us. They want their parents to spend time with them, give them attention, and create memories that will last a lifetime, and they want that more than any material thing money can buy.

Would your child say the same?  In today’s world it’s easy to get wrapped up in the busyness of life.  We have places to go, errands to run, dinner to make and then the holiday season comes along and adds more hustle and bustle to the daily grind.  I’m the first to admit that there are days when I spend more time looking at my computer screen than at my children.  This Advent season, let’s make a commitment to give our children what they really desire and need most – our time.

Here are a few tips for making your Advent a time of preparing your heart for the celebration of Christ’s birth and growing in holiness with your children.

5 Tips to Keep Your Kids Focused on Jesus This Advent

1. Make Jesus the true “reason for the season”:  

It may sound cliché, but it is something we must model for our children.  Advent is a time to prepare our hearts, minds and souls for the coming of Christ.  How can we do this in our homes?

– Family prayer time – An Advent wreath at the dinner table is a simple way to add extra prayer to your day. There are many excellent guides to lead you in a brief reflection.  We are trying Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta this year.

Read books and stories about the Birth of Jesus –  There are so many wonderful Catholic Christmas books for kids on the market.  The Christmas Board Book by Maite Roche is beautifully illustrated and easy for babies and toddlers to understand. Also, check out the Our Father book by the same author.  These books are perfect for the diaper bag because they are so durable. For older children, 24 Christmas Stories to Welcome Jesus provides a story for each night of December.  

-Buy your children a nativity set that they can play with such as Little People Nativity for babies and toddlers or Melissa and Doug Nativity for older kids.

– Visit a living nativity.  It may take some Googling and a bit of research, but going to a live nativity is worth the drive and effort.  This is often the highlight (even more than parties and cookies) of my family’s Advent. It helps to remind children – and adults – that the birth of Jesus is more than a fairy tale, it really happened. We always have great discussions following this event.

2. Pick one thing… maybe two:  

There are so many wonderful, holy activities that you can do this Advent.  If you are like me, you want to do them all! I often dive in and spend the first week of Advent doing all sorts of things, but by the end I’ve lost steam and am not doing anything!  Take some time in the next few weeks to pray about what will best suit your family and is most feasible for you to continue throughout Advent.  There is no reason that you need to do a Jesse Tree, create a peg doll nativity set, and do Straws for Jesus all in the same year.  You can always create a list for years to come.  At the end of this post, you can find a list of resources to help you choose a memorable activity for your children.

3. Create opportunities for joy: 

This is a season of great joy. We are waiting and anticipating the birth of our Savior.  It is this gloriousness that we should reflect to our children.  Singing Christmas carols, drinking hot chocolate, making cookies, and playing in the snow are all things that should be on our “to do” list.  Choose one night each week (that’s just 4 nights!) to intentionally create an opportunity for joy and laughter.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.  Hop in the car and look at Christmas lights or play games together as a family.  My kids find a lot of joy in going Christmas shopping for underprivileged children.  They have so much fun picking out a gift for a child their age and they begin to realize that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. Cherish these moments that will truly make this season merry and bright.

4. Spend less, give more:  

Help your children learn that they are able to give gifts without spending any money.  They can give the gift of time by helping a neighbor shovel snow or talking with a relative who may be lonely.  They can make Christmas cards for soldiers, the elderly or the sick.  Christmas caroling is a fun way to bring happiness to neighbors and share the love of Christ.  Doing small acts of kindness for siblings or classmates is also something that every child can do. The Advent season is a wonderful time to help teach your children the life lesson of the importance of the gift of self.

5. Get your priorities right:  

“Parents, can you ‘waste time’ with your children? It is one of the most important things that you can do each day.” – Pope Francis
Take a moment to look over your calendar.  Are all those holiday parties necessary? Be sure that you are putting God first and the needs of your spouse and children second.  It may be difficult to say no to some events now, but these days won’t last forever.  Your role as a parent is important for your spiritual growth as well as your family’s holiness.  

Ask yourself: Have I spent more time on my cell phone than with my children? When was the last time I “wasted time” with my family? Do I pray for the needs of my children and spouse daily?

Bonus – 10 Links to Advent Activities for your family (remember, just pick one or two!):  Advent Prayer Chain,   Christmas Novena Chaplet (Craft),  Holy Heroes Advent Adventure, Jesse Tree ,  Liturgical Wheel, Names of Jesus Printable Ornaments,  Nativity Cookie Cutters,   Printable Nativity Peg Doll Set, O Antiphon Craft, and Straws for Jesus.

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