Giving really is better than getting, says Irish American mom Kerry Lyons

‘Tis the season! Time to trim the tree, make a list, check it twice, talk to your kids about being naughty or nice. There’s a wintery chill in the air and a spirit of festive warmth all around us.

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Why then, are we consistently bombarded with news stories and magazine headlines geared toward “keeping your sanity this holiday season”? Are we making ourselves crazy? All the shopping, baking, entertaining and striving to create the perfect holiday memories seem to be sucking the happiness out of our “Happy Holiday” intentions.

This can’t be good for our kids. How can we expect them to comprehend the true meaning of the season when we, as parents, are so often caught up in the mayhem?

Here are a few simple ways to remind your children and each other that this season, giving really is better than getting:

1. Give it up.

If your house is like mine, it’s about to be bombarded by an influx of shiny, new playthings that will turn today’s favorites into tomorrow’s castaways. I suggest you take a preemptive strike and enlist your kids’ help in cleaning out the toy box, toy bins, toy baskets, basement, and bookshelves.

Encourage them to say goodbye to the old – not only to make room for the new but, far more importantly, to teach them that a child in need deserves a good deed. This is their opportunity to do some good this holiday season; to “share” their gently used treasures with those less fortunate.

So, take your kids and the books/toys/gadgets they’ve outgrown to a local children’s hospital, shelter, nursery school or even a thrift shop. (Call first to be sure they are accepting donations!) Tis the season to teach our kids that helping others is a great gift … one that will last a lifetime.

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2. Give your time.

With Christmas right around the corner, why not plan a family event that focuses on the gift of time? How many times have we all said “oh, how I wish there were more hours in the day! Just think of all I would accomplish!"

Well, here’s something you can easily do – find a few hours and take the time to visit grandparents, volunteer at your local charity of choice or even just spend some time together as a family. Tis the season to unplug and tune into those around you; this just may be one of the best ways to spread the joy of the season.

3. Something’s gotta give.

When you “just say yes” to everything – the school bake sale, the Christmas pageant, the cookie swap, the class gift – you stretch yourself far too thin. Speaking from personal experience, I know that this can make you the overtired Grinch you detest rather than the jolly St. Nick you’d much prefer to be.

This holiday season, do yourself (and your kids!) a favor and just say no. Giving up a few of the things you think you “have" to do – whether it’s sending cards, wrapping gifts or baking yourself into a frenzy – will result in a happier you … which, of course, translates to happier kids. So, 'tis the season to “just say no” -- to doing too much and to the perfectionist ideals set forth in those charming Norman Rockwell prints.

Tis the season to be jolly … remember that and you and your family will indeed have a Happy Holiday season and a most Merry Christmas!

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* Originally published in December 2010.

How do you and your family keep the spirit of Christmas alive? Share in the comments!