As the holidays approach, there are reminders all around that others are far less fortunate than us. This is the “giving time of year”, when we donate toys to children who would otherwise wake up on Christmas morning without any; we give to our local food bank; we share our time with charities that need assistance. This time of year is ideal for teaching our children about giving back. While they may see our good deeds, there is still more we can do to encourage the giving spirit in our kids.
- Start the conversation – there are lots of ways to bring up the subject of giving with our kids. One easy idea: when they’re playing with their toys, ask them to imagine what it would be like if they didn’t have any. How would they feel? Then explain that there are lots of kids who don’t have anything to eat or a place to stay, let alone toys to play with. You can also teach by example – simply make a comment each time you feel lucky / thankful / blessed – and why. These are great opportunities to teach kids about gratefulness.
- Experience gratefulness everyday – no matter what the situation, help children appreciate everything they have. Don’t take for granted that trip to the café for hot chocolate, or the ballet lessons your child attends. Make a point of acknowledging all of the things to be grateful for, all year long. In turn, don’t always say “yes” to material requests. If a child wants for nothing, they won’t be grateful for anything.
- Shop for toys/presents to donate – get kids involved in the process by having them choose a toy to give to a child in need. Choosing what to give is empowering, and they’ll experience the wonderful feeling that comes from giving selflessly to others.
- Encourage their giving spirit – there are lots of opportunities to give through school initiatives. My daughter was excited to learn of her school’s book drive earlier this month, and immediately started sorting through her gently used books to see which were suitable to donate. When children are eager to give, let’s help them follow through; they’ll likely want to do it again.
- Acknowledge their giving – positive reinforcement is always a good thing! A ‘thank you’ goes a long way, especially when it’s heartfelt and delivered with a hug. Showing them how their giving has benefitted the receiver (if possible) is also very powerful.