“Giving is a blessing to the giver as well as the one who receives.”
The season of giving is upon us. As adults we are already drafting our gift lists and choosing the perfect items for friends and family members. And, it’s not too soon for the kids to get into the spirit as well, making out their own lists of the gifts they hope to receive during the holidays. Giving is a wonderful part of our holiday traditions, but let’s look at it for a few moments. Is the giving we do benefiting those who are in the most need? Does our giving make a difference for anyone? What do our habits of giving teach our children? Are we giving of ourselves or simply spending money? When we think about the answers to these questions, some of us might find that our holiday giving is less in line with our religious beliefs and more about the influence of commercial advertising.
The holiday season is a great time to take stock of how we give back to our communities, and start a new family tradition that involves giving to those who are less fortunate, and in doing so teaching our children the value, the importance, and yes…the joy of giving.
the donation box
One way to instill the joy of giving is to give every member of the family a chance to collect their own gently-used toys, books and clothes that can be donated to families or children in need. Help your children get started by talking about how there are many kids whose families don’t have the resources to provide all the things that many of us take for granted. Guide them in selecting items that they can set aside in their own “donation boxes” and make it a family project, so that each member of the family has a chance to contribute.
volunteer as a family
Nothing makes an impression on a child like experiential learning. Volunteer your family’s time at a soup kitchen or senior center. Gather small-size toiletries, such as toothpaste, soap and shampoo and pack them in decorated gift bags to take to a homeless shelter. Offer to do yard work for an elderly neighbor or single parent too busy to keep up with lawn care. Choose a child from a local angel tree or “adopt” a needy family through a community organization and let each child in your family help to select a gift to give. Collect canned goods to take to a local food bank. Discuss with your kids the importance of contributing to your community and looking for ways to fill the needs of those around you through simple acts of kindness.
remember the power of the pen
Write letters or cards to someone who is alone or away from home: a soldier, a senior in a retirement home, or someone in the hospital. Consider putting together a “goody box” of inexpensive, yet welcome items such as magazines and toiletries to include with your letter. Imagine with your children what it will mean to the recipient of your package when they open it. Talk about how it must feel to be alone during the holidays.
give of yourself
It might be quicker to pull out the checkbook and make monetary donations to your favorite charity, and those gifts are important as well, but it is hard for a young child to understand the value of such a contribution and how the money is going to help someone. When it comes to giving…seeing is believing, and giving of ourselves gives us, young or old, a sense of pride, self-esteem and the knowledge that “actions really do speak louder than words.”
For information about volunteering visit: