Last year, my husband and I decided to try something new for our littles during the Christmas Holiday season: Kindness Elves. We had seen “Elf on a Shelf” from Facebook and heard stories from friends. After some debate, we decided Elf on the Shelf was not the route for us.
Luckily, a friend had heard about the Kindness Elves that come to your house like Elf on a Shelf. The Kindness Elves provide ideas for nice acts that children and their families can perform to show their appreciation for one another. They help to teach the littles to consider others. We decided we liked the idea of teaching generosity, kindness, and thoughtfulness.
After some research from the Imagination Tree, we made a list of possible acts of kindness. They ranged from giving a compliment to one friend and two strangers in a day, to baking cookies or clearing snow from a neighbor’s walkway. We purchased four cute elves from Amazon, and I created our first letter from the elves.
In the letter, the elves introduced themselves, Cheery Cocoa, Sparkle Snowflake, Giggle Bells, and Star Frost. I put their initials on the bottom of their feet). They explained they were sent by Santa to help them (just like they help Santa), to spread kindness to friends, family, and strangers until Christmas. The elves would leave them notes every night with ideas for acts of kindness they could do the next day and offered praise for their good deeds.
It started out great and small. Say hello to two people they did not know and give two compliments to friends. This was to get them in the habit of noticing people and offering positivity to friends. We talked about what they could say, give a compliment on someone’s cute or unique clothing, if they are being nice or funny, or have a skill or unique capability.
The littles were really excited to get started and very excited to relay their first attempts. Many days, the elves focused on compliments or being extra nice to family and pets. My boys were excited at the positive responses from friends and strangers.
About five days into our Kindness Elf experiment, my dad became very ill suddenly and died. That night was the only night the Elves did not leave a note for my littles. They were crushed. I was unsure if I was going to be able to continue with the elves…
It turned out that the Kindness Elves became a cathartic way for me to deal with my grief during the holiday, while also teaching my littles about grief and loss. At first, I could not imagine continuing the nightly letters, but I decided to keep them short and simple. I added some Christmas knock-knock jokes to help make them laugh.
The jokes also made me laugh. I looked for Christmas knock-knocks online and they were terrible: Knock Knock. Who’s there? Santa. Santa Who? Santa Christmas card to you. Did you get it? My boys loved them, too, and laughed and laughed.
The elves conveyed their sorrow over the death of my boy’s grandpa and talked a little about how hard it was to feel so sad during the Christmas season. I bought a grief book and had the elves leave it for them one night. It helped us talk about not being able to see grandpa anymore, but that he still loved them.
The elves also directed my littles to give their grandma extra consideration, hugs, and love to help her feel better. They would give her hugs and tell her they loved her out of the blue. It helped us to make it through the season.
I thought that a letter a night would be too hard, especially after my dad died. But in writing the notes to help my littles and teach them about compassion and small acts of kindness, I was reminded and helped, too. I was able to not just focus on my grief, but to help my children and remain mostly positive despite the heartache.
My husband’s family has a family tradition of making Gingerbread People cookies. Their mother always made extra and the next morning they would find gingerbread people cookies trying to escape out of windows, doors, the fireplace; all with missing legs or arms or head or just snapped. We incorporated this with the gingerbread people, but the Kindness Elves had caught them and eaten a leg or arm. One elf chased a gingerbread person up the tree. My littles thought that was hilarious. It helped us all to hear them laugh.
This year, we started with the elves coming to visit on December 1st. The elves are reminding my littles to look beyond the presents, to help others find happiness and kindness. We plan to make ornaments for our family and friends, and bake cookies at least once a week for neighbors and strangers. We will continue with compliments and trying to spread cheer.
This year will also be hard as it is the anniversary of their grandpa’s death. But I am certain the elves will continue to help us look beyond our pain, engage with each other, and those we love. We will address the loss and continuing heartache with the positivity of the elves leaving notes of encouragement and fun ideas. We have created a lasting Christmas tradition that will extend throughout the year and help us far more than we originally envisioned.