‘Tis the season of giving and parents everywhere are trying to balance their tendency to fulfill their child’s every dream with the need to teach appreciation and gratitude. After all, we want our children to be happy and feel loved, but we’re also terrified of turning them into spoiled brats! It’s a fine line to walk here and you can be demonized from spectators on all sides.
So what’s a thoughtful and involved parent to do? Well, the best way to teach gratitude and goodwill is to model it. As parents, it’s important that we let our children participate in our charitable contributions during the holiday season. What better way is there to show our kids that the magic and power of winter isn’t just in the toys we find under our own trees, but in the joy and happiness that we spread to our families, friends, communities and fellow humans all over the world.
This is the perfect opportunity, while our children are focused on toys and clothes and electronics, to remind them that we’re lucky for all that we have. It’s a time to make them aware of the less-fortunate and to teach them what each of us can do to help. Kids need help to look beyond their own circumstances and see what’s going on around them. Here’s a couple ways for parents to help them do that.
- Toys for Tots. The annual charity sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps as well as other large donors like Toys ‘R’ Us provides new toys to needy children during the holiday season. The immensely popular program distributed over 16.7 million toys to over 7.2 million children in 2010. So how can your kids get involved? Well, they can forgo one holiday present each and donate it to this worthy charity. Or you can let them spend their own money to purchase a toy for the program. It will help them learn how good it feels to give back.
- Volunteer in a soup kitchen. Considering the shocking statistic that 1 in 4 American children will go hungry this Christmas, it’s important to show our children that we’re not just lucky for that new PSP, we lucky to have food on the table. I’m not talking about scaring them, but about showing them how you can help those in need. Volunteering in a soup kitchen or community pantry will help them see the joy in giving back to those in need during the holidays.
- Adopt a family. My amazing sister turned me on to this community outreach project, usually run through the Salvation Army. I remember my school participating when we were kids, and my company adopts a family every year. But my sister and a couple of her friends went together and adopted a small Christmas family. They pooled their resources and got clothes, toys and some essentials for a family a three. They even provided food for a Christmas dinner. They demonstrated that just a couple friends coming together could create a memorable holiday for those who would’ve never had the opportunity to celebrate. My niece knew the name of their family’s young son. She went out shopping with her mother for his toys and warm clothes. To support another family like that, to know their names and favorite things, it’s an experience that I know my niece will carry with her.
- Visit senior centers and nursing homes. The holidays can be a very difficult time of year for those who have had to leave their homes and move away from their families. It’s the perfect time to make some homemade holiday cards or baked goods with your children and head to a local senior center. You can carol, read stories or just visit and chat. Everyone will appreciate the time and effort. It’s an amazing way to show your children that you can help your community and do a good deed without spending any money at all.