Caring for All Types of Families at Christmas

Dec 8, 2020 9:00:00 AM / by Amber Lappin

Many of us have phenomenal memories of celebrating Christmas at school, at church, and in our communities. In our excitement to bring the joy of the season, it’s important that we remember that holidays can sometimes be a source of stress for families. This is especially true for kiddos who are often left underrepresented or underserved in typical group celebrations. To avoid the common pitfalls, we can make sure we have a welcoming and equitable offering for kids by remembering a few facts:

  • The kids in your congregation come from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
    • Be cautious about focusing on gifts. Avoid saying things like, “Oh, you got that special toy! Your mommy must really love you!” (the covert message may be if others did not get the toy, they are not loved).
    • Instead, talk about gifts that don’t cost any money. For example, “Who shared something with you?” or “Is there someone you can think of who would enjoy a nice smile from you?”
  • Representation matters.
    • Christmas material for children (songs, books, stories) can sometimes include gender stereotypes and characters who all look the same. Check to ensure that your visual materials (ex: Nativity, Christmas stories, etc.) feature people of color and of different genders in a positive light.
    • If you do activities that include drawing or crafting people, be sure to have art supplies with a variety of skin tones on hand.
  • Family comes in many different forms.
    • Holidays can be rough for kids from “nontraditional” families—especially if they are in a new situation. Be sensitive to families in transition—try to be aware if a child would benefit from making two projects (one for each home) or if the kiddos need a little extra attention.
    • Also, avoid saying “your mom and dad”—try “the grownups who take care of you” (or another variation), which respects families no matter what their current configuration is.
  • Remember to make your events/offerings accessible.
    • If you offer in-person Christmas services, be sure to think about people with disabilities. Do you need earplugs available to cut down on noise anxiety? Are the areas physically accessible? What can you have on hand so that everyone feels welcome?
    • If you are offering virtual services, are you making sure your services are closed captioned? Try listening to what you are offering with our eyes closed—how can you add to the experience those who would not be able to watch?
  • Remember to honor family traditions.
    • Consider sending out a survey to your families to find out how you can best serve them. You can include questions like:
      • Traditions you’d like us to know about
      • Family facts you’d like us to keep in mind
      • Any obstacles your family is facing so we can a) be mindful for your children and b) be prayerful for your family

Though it may seem like work at first, the efforts you put into making sure all the children in your Christmas services feel noticed, valued, and loved will ultimately be a wonderful gift to the families in your congregation.

Topics: Children Ministry, Christmas

Amber Lappin

Written by Amber Lappin

Amber is a speaker and writer with over 25 years of experience in early childhood development and children’s ministry. She works as an associate professor at Mt. San Jacinto Community College in the child development education department, and as a grant program director for two nationally accredited preschools. Amber enjoys "small town" Southern California living with her husband of 25 years, Jason, and their three children.

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