The most wonderful time of the year is upon us.
It’s a season full of food, family traditions, laughter and gifts. During this time of the year, it’s common for children to be focused on what they’ll receive — presents, sweets, later-than-usual bedtimes and more. Store windows, television commercials and online ads are full of all the latest toys and gadgets that kids want. Children begin writing notes to Santa, making a list of their most cherished Christmas wishes and talking amongst themselves about the toys they hope to receive.
As parents, we love having the chance to shower our children with good things. During a season known for generosity and excess, it makes us feel good to go above and beyond for our children. While there’s nothing wrong with making your own children feel special during the holidays, this is also an important and valuable season for teaching kids about generosity over the holidays.
Giving — the action resulting from a spirit of generosity, or willingness to help others — isn’t just about “doing the right thing.” Generosity has actually been found to have a significant and long-term impact on mental health and happiness throughout a person’s life. Teaching your child the value of giving now has the potential to impact the rest of their life.
Ways to Teach Children About Giving Over the Holiday Season
Most parents agree it’s important to teach kids about giving during the holidays. If you don’t start when they’re younger, then it will be much more difficult to model and teach later on in life. But, in the face of all the hype and expectations, it can be difficult to find practical ways kids can give back over the holidays. Here are some easy ways to share valuable lessons with your kids:
1. Minimize Excess at Home
If you’re looking for ideas to teach kids about giving during the holidays, start by redirecting your child’s focus away from the “stuff.” Rather than spend hundreds of dollars and many hours on elaborate decorations, choose a few simple and meaningful traditions — such as a tree — to symbolize your family’s holiday.
If you’re in the habit of spending a lot of money on a lot of gifts during the holidays, resolve to cut back this year. Many parents find it helpful to limit their purchases to the Want, Need, Wear, Read rule that says children receive four gifts — one that falls under each category.
Also, resist the urge to schedule each day full of activities. Opt to spend some evenings at home as a family, playing games, watching holiday movies or decorating cookies.
2. Emphasize Family Togetherness
It’s completely natural for children to be excited about gifts and new toys, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the grin on their faces when they discover a treasured item under the tree. But this year, use the holiday season to emphasize family togetherness, rather than the gifts. Plan a family dinner as the highlight of a shopping trip. Designate one evening a week for watching holiday movies together. Plan fun seasonal activities, such as attending your local community’s holiday parade or tree lighting festivities.
3. Focus on the Deeper Meaning
For many families, the holiday season is deeply rooted in their faith. Spend time teaching your children about what your family believes and the reason behind the special traditions that make the season meaningful. If you aren’t sure how to explain these to young children, your house of worship or religious community can provide information and age-appropriate materials to help.
4. Include Your Child in the Giving
It can be frustrating to take a young child to the store and ask them to pick out a gift. They’re easily distracted and easily tired. Shopping can quickly spiral into one big frustrating mess. But it’s still important to try. Include your child in selecting gifts for parents, grandparents and teachers. Ask for their input and then look for age-appropriate ways they can “help” you pick it out. For example, if you decide that your child’s teachers will receive coffee mugs, show your child coffee mugs and ask them to pick out their favorites.
5. Charitable Gifts
Toward the end of the year, many adults become fixated on giving money. Besides being easier, the appeal of the tax writeoff can be a big motivation at this time of year. Resist the urge to write a check your child never sees. Take the money you’d normally send off in the mail and dole it out in person. Take your family out to dinner and leave a large and unexpected tip for your server. Divide the money up and give some to each family member to drop in a bucket outside of the grocery store. Or, secretly deliver the money to some friends or a local family you know is struggling this year.
6. Holiday Cards to Military
The American Red Cross and many local organizations offer special events where children and adults can make cards to send to the troops overseas. This is a great way to teach your child about generosity, sacrifice and love of country. Three great lessons rolled into one!
7. Connect With Elderly Relatives
The holidays can be a difficult time for the elderly. Many live far from their families, and its also often a reminder of the loved ones they’ve lost over the years. Talk with your child to identify elderly relatives or friends in your area who could use a cheerful visit. If you don’t know anyone firsthand, contact a local senior living facility to find out which of their residents could use a visit.
8. Random Acts of Kindness
Commit to spending 30 days performing random acts of kindness. If your child is young, you may have to suggest ways to be kind — open doors, draw pictures, donate old toys — but allow older children to come up with kind actions on their own. Doing this for a month will go a long way toward helping them cultivate the habit of giving and generosity throughout the year.
9. Donate a Holiday Meal
Many churches and community organizations sponsor drives to collect all the “fixins” for holiday meals. Find a group, grab one of their pre-printed shopping lists, then let your child help you fill a cart. If you can, go a step further and volunteer to help deliver these meals to their recipients. What better way to teach kids about charity during the holidays than to engage them in it firsthand?
Teaching Children to Give at the Holidays
Teaching kids about the power of giving during the holidays is a simple, yet powerful thing. At Haymarket Children’s Academy, our goal is to come alongside parents to provide meaningful instruction and guidance that will last your child a lifetime. We firmly believe that this season is best spent when children and their families are focused on what they can give, rather than what they can get, and we look forward to sharing this season with you.
If you are looking for quality, reliable childcare in the Gainesville area, schedule a tour to learn more about our accredited childcare programs.