This time of year a lot of people focus on the spirit of the season. Parents take the opportunity to teach their babes about the reason for the season and highlight the act of being charitable and giving to others. But, often times this can be a bit of a struggle to teach young kids. As we battle day after day with our tiny humans over sharing, teaching them how to give can be a foreign and sometimes taboo topic for young children. So, how in a world where it is (and probably should be) “all about me” do we instill the value of giving in our children? Here are 4 tips to help teach your kids the true meaning behind the holiday season.
1. NO: donating your toddlers toys
Do NOT encourage your kids to give away their toys as a charitable donation until they are older and can really grasp this concept. Telling a three-year-old that he has to select toys to give to a child in need is a recipe for disaster. All he will understand is that he is giving his toys (regardless of if he plays with them or not) to someone else. You’ll want your charitable experience to be positive and ideally something your child naturally enjoys. We want to teach them how good it feels to give and attaching a negative feeling to this will defeat the purpose. So, stay away from toy donations. Now, this isn’t to say you can’t purge your kids toys-everyone needs to weed the garden every so-often. Just try not to attach it to the act of giving and being charitable. Instead, purge once they’re asleep!
2. YES: Donating your toddlers out-grown clothes
If you’re searching for a way to physically give a tangible item, consider donating clothes or things that your children aren’t overly attached to. There are a bunch of charities that accept used or gently used clothing. Have your child sort through clothing and place them in a bag to be donated. Donating non-perishable items from your pantry is also a great way to refresh your home during this busy season while teaching your kids the value of helping those in need and avoiding the inevitable tantrum that will occur when donating their personal belongings.
3. YES: Volunteer time
Another great way to teach the act of giving is to volunteer time. There are so many benefits to this. First, your child isn’t physically getting rid of anything, sparing you the tantrums and meltdowns. Instead, they are creating memories through a bonding experience with you. In addition, the experience of helping those less fortunate will instill empathy in a natural way. Google local organizations in need of volunteers. Charities frequently look for volunteers to put together sandwiches or small bagged meals for the homeless. Check your local assisted living facilities or nursing homes to see if there is a way for you and your child to visit the residents. It is so easy to get wrapped up in life that we forget the natural way to instill kindness is to simply be kind & model caring behaviors. Create a new tradition with your tiny human this year by donating some time.
4. YES: Encourage family & friend gift-giving
Encourage your child to participate in your gift giving among family and friends. Allow them to pick small gifts for their grandparents or allow them to pick one special person to give a gift of their choice. Homemade presents are also fun and always appreciated. Talk with your child about what they’d like to make and who they’d like to make things for. Handprints and footprints make cute additions to purchased gifts and gets your child involved in the giving side of the season.
So, as we navigate this parenting journey during one of the most difficult, yet exciting seasons of the year, don’t lose focus on the things that truly matter. Teach kindness and make memories with your children. Love on them and teach them to love on others. In a world filled with chaos, show them the calm that comes with gratitude and giving.