Many parents struggle with defining their core values during the holiday season. Specifically, children can become so wrapped up in the more secular elements of the holiday celebration that they become less enamored with welcoming Jesus’ birth. Sure, gifts are part of the Christmas story, but the dominance of Santa Claus, elves, many parties, and dozens of presents per child doesn’t exactly reflect the simplicity, sanctity, and spirituality that is at the root of the season.

I’m not saying there is no place for the lovely Santa Claus or the joy and wonderment of, yes, being a little spoiled. Not at all! Have some fun! Even the most devout Christian and Catholic families generally understand that some elements of secularism don’t have to tarnish the real reason for the season. But how do you eliminate some of the noise? Balance is key. Here are a few ways to meld the season’s excitement with important spiritual and moral lessons.

Parties...and Church: We know just how many parties happen during Christmastime! School parties, neighborhood parties, family parties, community parties...the list goes on. Bring some stillness into a child’s life by incorporating a few visits to church amidst all of these parties. Attend an extra service during the week or introduce your child to quiet prayer during open church times. We all need some grounding rituals and this can be one of them.

Pointing out the reason for the season whenever possible: When you go on a holiday light tour, make note of families who chose to display an outdoor Nativity set. Nativity sets outdoors are a display of the religious amongst the glitzy, shiny secular elements of the season, that’s for sure! Or when someone sends a holiday card that includes mention of Jesus or God - show them. Explain why an angel or a star is atop the tree (tie it to the Christmas story). Whenever you read a Santa book, choose a part of the Christmas story to read, too. It’s all in the details; outdoor Nativity sets, bible verses, religious ornaments, and more - these can cement your child’s mind about the real reason for the season.

Out with the old...before the new: Encourage children to donate one of their own gently used toys to a Christmas toy drive or charitable organization. We actually require that our kids choose five toys each year. We have also gifted those to daycares, friends, and family who appreciate hand-me-downs. Our toy giveaway is not about only helping people with fewer financial resources, it is also about teaching our children the dangers of excess. Recycling is also something we discuss during our toy clean-out. Having them part with something that was once precious and giving it to someone else empowers them much more than buying another cheap plastic toy. All of these lessons remind us of the holiday lessons of simplicity and selflessness.

Kneeling Santa or Santa at the Manger: Give or show your child a kneeling Santa also known as a Santa at the Manger. Santa at the Manger powerfully demonstrates the two prominent figures of Christmas time. It shows that Santa Claus is reverent. If you also discuss the generosity of Santa and his perseverance and love of children - no matter who they are or where they are from - you really have some powerful holiday lessons to share. Kneeling Santas make for beautiful and interesting decor, too!

Find your balance this holiday season.