December 1, 2016/by Jane Romeo
The holidays provide a great opportunity to teach your children the gift of giving. Parents can easily become transformed into “personal shoppers” for their kids, especially after receiving emails, tweets or Instagram pics with specific links to the exact color, shape and size of items on their wish lists. The sharing, giving component of the holidays seems to get lost.
If it feels like your child is displaying the “I want, I need and I have to have” gene, don’t fret. Children can actually have characteristics of self-centeredness and generosity at the same time. These behaviors are not mutually exclusive.
If we want our kids to feel good about “giving,” they must be guided by the adults in their lives — you! Lead by example. Teach children empathy and compassion by modeling these behaviors in your every day life, not just around the holidays. Show your children that the holidays are so much more than just getting gifts.
Try sharing some of these experiences:
Prepare a meal with your child and deliver it to a homeless shelter or food bank.
Encourage your child to help you shop for another child. Provide your child with a budget. Then tell him to think about what another child might like. Bridge the connection that many families are not as fortunate as your child is.
Ask your child to help gather up old coats for a coat drive or go through unworn clothing to donate to a shelter.
Invite a neighbor or relative who is alone to have dinner with your family. You can even extend an afternoon invitation for just cookies and egg nog.
Hold a family meeting and choose a charity that everyone would like to support.
Teach young children to be gracious and say, “please” and “thank you.” For older kids, teach them to write thank you notes.
Have your child get used to accompanying you on a trip to the store for errands that doesn’t include buying something for him or her. Every trip to the store does not always have to include a treat or present.
Teaching your children the gift of giving around the holidays is very important. But spending time with your children and giving them focused attention is equally important. Highlight the spirit of the season and the importance of family through activities such as ice skating, watching holiday movies, baking cookies and decorating the house for the holidays. Kids love this special time to create family traditions for years to come.
’Tis the season for giving and sharing. Why not start giving the gift of compassion and empathy to your kids this holiday.
• • •
Jane Romeo is a Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) educator.