I love the holidays: the lights, the parties, the music, the food, and the music…the list goes on. The thing I love most, though, is the spirit of giving. There are so many opportunities to give back and help one another.
This season is also an ideal time to instill this spirit of giving in children not just during the holidays, but also all year long.
Ways to Start Instilling the Giving Spirit in your Children
#1: Acknowledge what your child already does – Introduce the idea of giving to others by first acknowledging what they are already doing. A smile to someone on the street, a friendly word to a friend and a heartfelt letter grandma are acts of giving. Illustrate how the last time your child cleaned out the toy box or closet was a way to give to those in need. Spotlighting the things your child already does invites him or her to look at giving in a new light. In fact, your child will likely be so happy to discover how he or she already makes a difference; the motivation to give more often will quickly surface.
#2: Give your child a choice – Your child will be more likely to adopt a giving spirit, when he is able to choose the cause. Finding what holds your child’s interest allows him to become more vested in the project. Ask your child if there is someone or something he would like to support. Once he has given you a few options, brainstorm together for ways you can give back. For example, I asked my daughter if she could do one thing to give back to others, what would it be. Her response: “To help the wild horses stay wild.” Together, we researched ways we could help. She was so excited about helping that she raised enough money to sponsor her own horse. That enthusiasm came from giving her a choice and, in turn, allowing her to own that choice.
#3: Make giving a family affair – Including the spirit of giving as part of your family definition or mission is key to letting your child know that you are all committed to helping others. When making a decision about supporting a cause, include your child. Allow her to see the thought process behind choosing (or not choosing) certain organizations or causes. Additionally, volunteering as a family is a great way to spend time together while also modeling the importance of giving back.
#4: Incorporate giving into activities your child already participates in – When it comes to incorporating acts of giving into everyday activities, the options are unlimited. During a playdate, ask the kids to make holiday decorations for the animal crates at the local Humane Society. Arrange for your playgroup, church group or whatever group sings carols at a convalescent home. Hosting a party? Request that guests bring a canned food item or a toy to donate and put your child in charge of the collections. Whatever you do, weave it into the fun of what you are already doing.
#5: Give and receive – Often, children will go through the motions of helping others (i.e. volunteering, donating) without fully understanding why they are doing it. Take the time to spotlight how the giving process was received. Share the stories of families who benefited from your canned food drive. Show photos of the smiles from the elderly at the senior center when your group went caroling. Request that agency thank you cards be sent to your child rather than you. Find specific examples to show them how their actions have positively impacted others.
We all benefit when children are learn to give to others. Charitable involvement has been shown to help raise self-esteem, develop social skills, foster an introduction to the greater world and encourage kids to appreciate their own lifestyle. From donating presents and collecting food to making cards and sponsoring wild horses, every contribution makes a difference – to your child, your community and the world.