Many parents are concerned that their children have become too focused on material items, and it can become especially apparent during the holidays. Children want more and more, but it never seems to make them happy for long. Propelled by the newest trend, they hand us wish lists filled with expensive electronics, the newest video games, and the latest smart phones.
Maybe the happiness we desire for our kids comes more from giving than receiving.
7 Ways to Bring the Spirit of Giving to Your Family
Generosity isn’t always natural for children. It is up to parents to inspire awareness and empathy for others while using their example to show the importance of giving. Families can make giving-back a way of life. The confidence and fulfillment children gain will further develop their character while making a real difference in our world.
Allow Your Children to Become Aware of the Needs of Others
Dr. Amy D’Unger, chair on the Board of Directors for Compassionate Kids Inc. recommends introducing your children to important issues that interest them at a level consistent with their cognitive and emotional abilities before volunteering. Giving back is more fulfilling if your child first sees the needs. Parents could point out homeless people drawing attention to their needs, or talk about the hardships of deployed military personnel and their families, or explain concerns in the environment and solutions, or animals that need care, but not exposing them to more than they can handle. D’Unger says that giving back as a family strengthens family bonds, as well as doing good for the community.
Write a Letter or Draw a Picture
There are many opportunities to encourage someone or say thank you or I care:
Military Personnel: A Million Thanks (http://www.amillionthanks.org) is an organization that facilitates delivery of letters to military personnel. While your child is writing or drawing explain the impact that their letter will have on the recipient, and watch the joy on their faces as they realize that they can make a difference. The Holiday for Heroes program (http://www.redcross.org/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities/holidays-for-heroes) through the Red Cross is another option.
Local Service People: Firemen, police officers, paramedics, or mail delivery people don’t get enough recognition. Write them a note, draw a picture, bake them some cookies, then let your kids hand deliver them. Watch as they gain the joy that comes with giving.
Your Local Community
An aunt, babysitter, favorite grocery store clerk, or anyone else that has a part in your child’s world would appreciate the thought and effort your child makes to show them appreciation.
If you have an elderly neighbor or new parents on your block, they may be thankful for some extra helping hands. You can offer to help with yard work, errands, household chores, babysitting, or bringing a meal. Sometimes just a friendly visit is a way that a family can show they care. Your neighbor will appreciate your consideration, and your family will be unified making the world a better place one neighborhood at a time.
Be On the Lookout for Ways to Help
Put away shopping carts at the grocery store, prepare paper bags of nonperishable foods and hygiene items to hand out to homeless people, or pick up trash when you see it. Make it a family adventure to see how many opportunities you can find to serve.
Donating to People in Need
Kids can donate their allowance, have a garage sale, or set up a lemonade stand with proceeds going to a favorite charity. They can donate their outgrown clothes or toys to a local children’s hospital or homeless shelter.
Check our out list of local ways to donate here.
Adopt a Family or Sponsor a Child
During the holidays grab a name tag or two off a “giving tree.” Many local Churches, fire departments, stores, and other community organizations offer opportunities to “adopt a family” for the holidays. You can even help your child find a child their own age in need to buy a gift for. Operation Stars and Stripes http://operationstarsandstripes.org/ provides options for giving stockings and small gifts to military personnel and their families. Angel Tree allows you to buy a gift for a child who’s parent is in prison.
There are many organizations where families can sponsor a child all year long. Some organizations allow you to exchange letters with the child you sponsor. Getting your kids in touch with children from all over the world can not only be a great way improve another child’s quality of life, but can also expand your child’s world view.
Community Organized Volunteering
Having your kids volunteer and do some hard work is a great way to help then appreciate all that they have.
For a list of local opportunities to volunteer this season, check out our list here.
Make giving back a tradition that becomes a part of your family’s identity. Compassion is learned by giving to others in need. If it becomes a normal part of your children’s lives, it will be natural for them to grow into generous, kind, charitable adults.
By Wendy Sinclair