The season of giving is upon us. As our children make their Christmas Lists and dream of what Santa will place under the tree for them Christmas morning. There isn’t a parent that doesn’t want Christmas to be a magical time for their children. But are you doing all you can to make sure that your children understand that this time of year is about more then getting presents, that it is about giving to others?
Most children don’t realize that they can make a big difference in the life of someone else. You don’t have to be an adult. Having a positive impact on the life of another person can be done by another of any age, and it can be the smallest of things. My husband and I are firm believers that it is the small things in life that have the most impact, and we do all we can to instill that in our children.
In our family we believe that a good life is not built on what you have, it is built on what you do for others. At this time of year especially our children are asked to pick three things that they want to do to help make the holiday season special for someone else. This is outside of the donations that we do as a family.
Curious as to how you can teach your child/children to be charitable? Here are a number of options. I want to stress that it isn’t the big things. You don’t have to donate large sums of money, or spend a large amount of time doing it. It is important though that your children see you being charitable as well. They learn best by example, so if mom and dad are making an effort to have a positive impact on the lives of others then they will want to do it as well.
See children are naturally compassionate, it doesn’t take much to get them to want to helps others. Start small, for example holding the door for someone. It may seem silly, but you can’t imagine the impact that it has on the person your child is holding the door for. Depending on the age of your child, helping an elderly neighbor carry in groceries is being charitable. These can be done all year.
Our son constantly wants to help the homeless, if he could he would donate every penny he ever came across to every homeless person he sees. His dream is to grow up and create a school where he can bring them to teach them a trade, help them find a job and make sure they have money so they are never cold, hungry or homeless again. He is 10.
Focusing on this time of year, the holidays, here are a number of things that you and your children can do to help cultivate charitable attitudes and practices.
1. Spend Sometime at the Local Homeless Shelter.
Sometimes the best eye opener for children and even parents is for them to see how lucky they are. My grandmother used to tell me that no matter how bad your life is there is always someone else whose life is worse. Go and serve dinner at the shelter as a family.
2. Donate to the Salvation Army
You seem them ringing the bells outside of every store front trying to raise money to help families in need. I have an compulsion to donate to each and every bell ringer I see, I can’t help it, even if it is only .50 that I have to donate. What I started doing a few years ago was giving our children money to donate to the bell ringers. So that we would all put our donations in the bucket. If we couldn’t donate on the way in, then what ever change we came up with on the way out went in the buckets. Even when we had to go in and be very careful about the money we were spending because times were tight for us, we still donated. My daughter asked one year, “Why are we giving them money if have no money?” I said to her the same thing my grandmother always said to me, “Because that money is going to someone that is having a rougher time then we are.”
3. Sponsor/Adopt a Child
I really have to say that American Idol has done a phenomenal thing with its American Idol gives back program. Why, because it is a program we watch as a family, and for our children to see what other kids are going through all over the world and in our very own country pulls their heart strings. Both of our children, for the past two years, have donated what ever money they had to the program, and went to school the next day and told their friends how many children they saved by donating their money.
You can talk to the school and ask them if their families that they are aware of that need help. You don’t need a name, a simple yes or no is all you need and to know if the child is male or female. You can tell you child that there is a child in their school that isn’t going to get have anything for Christmas, would your child like to be their secret Santa. Take your child shopping and have them pick out a toy or something that they would want to help make this Christmas special for this other child. You can create a little basket with food items or other things that would help the family out at this time of year. Give it to the school and have them deliver it to the family.
4. Donate a Portion of their Allowance at Church/to Charities
They don’t have to donate all of their money, but encourage them to take a portion of their money and donate it to your church. If you don’t attend church, there are a number of charities out there that are short on money and could use the donation to help someone. We have our children divide their money up into three categories, a third to spend on what ever they want, a third to save, and a third to help someone else.
5. Ask Them How They Want to Help Someone
Talk to your child, and ask them if there is something that they would like to do to make a difference in the world. You may be very surprised at the answer they give. No matter how trivial, help them do it. If it is buying pencils and candy canes to hand out to everyone at school, then go to a bulk store and get pencils and candy canes for them to hand out. (That is what my son wants to do this year, is hand out candy canes to the entire school so that everyone has a Merry Christmas.)
I know that our economy is not the greatest right now, and that there are hundreds of thousands of people struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis, much less figure out how to make Thanksgiving and Christmas as magical as it should be. It is the small things that you can encourage your children to do to help that magic along. Bake holiday cookies for a needy neighbor. Hand out candy canes. Serve dinner at a homeless shelter. Adopt a child or family. Have them go through the toys they have and the clothes they have, and whatever is in good shape but just doesn’t get the use it should get or could get have them donate it to Goodwill, Salvation Army or the homeless shelter.
It is the season of giving. Teach your children that in order to receive you must first give.
Happy Holidays! Kevin from More4kids
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