Wednesday, December 7, 2016

When You Want Your Child to Understand Christmas

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:4-7 NIV

I love this time of the year and sharing the message of Christ to my children.

There were times in the past when teaching this to two small children was hard. My daughter has Down Syndrome and is minimally verbal. My son is three years younger than her. Being able to find a way to tell both of them about Jesus and the story of his birth has taken some thought and practice.

Over the years, I have collected books, nativity scenes, and other items to use as "teaching" materials. I've tried to talk to the kids about who the people in the nativity scenes are. We've read stories. We have drawn pictures of the nativity scene as we talked about who was there when Jesus was born.

Sometimes it's hard for me to teach these religious beliefs to my daughter with special needs. How do you talk about God with someone when there's no visual representation or thing to show them? There are some contrived pictures of Jesus but there isn't a Polaroid of him or some way to concretely describe that Jesus is God's son. I struggle with teaching my faith to her at times, especially because there isn't a good way to check her understanding of it.

One Christmas, Jaycee started to point to nativity scenes and signing mom, dad, and baby. It was the feedback I was hoping to get that showed me she understood some part of the story. Now, she knows even more. She understands that nativity scenes are church related and has some concept of Jesus. For that, I'm grateful.

My son has grown in his understanding too. When he was in pre-school, he told me that we needed a "nest" for baby Jesus at our house. Managers do look a bit like nests to a small child. He frequently added himself in nativity scene pictures he drew when he was that age too. Now, he knows that Jesus is asleep in a manger. He also knows there are several people in a nativity scene, and he is not one of them.

That is the reward of parenting we all want to see! When we instruct our children, we eventually see the pay-off. The teaching time is sometimes difficult, especially when we aren't sure we are getting through to our children. There is absolute joy though when we see our children understand something about our faith.

So moms and dads out there, keep talking, keep sharing, keep instructing, and keep hoping. Don't let this opportunity to share your faith with all of your children pass you by!

PRAY: God, thank you for this time of reflection we have at Christmas. Help us Lord to teach our children about the real meaning of Christmas. Help us to have words to express your heart. Give us fresh ideas to help all of our children- especially those with special needs- understand the birth of Christ. Allow our children to have a greater understanding of who Jesus is as we share the message to them. Amen!


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