This month’s question: During this holiday season, I want to encourage my children to see beyond their own wants and needs and find ways to encourage them to address the wants and needs of others. What's the best way to get my kids to become generous with others?
One of the best ways to teach generosity is to show kids by example. Talk with them about ways you like to help others and get them involved with you. Find volunteer opportunities for the whole family and participate in them as often as you can.
When my kids were young, we started filling shoeboxes with toys, necessities, and other items to send to organizations who ship them to children who would not otherwise receive anything for Christmas. Every year, we also took them shopping to pick out a toy for a child the same age to donate to the Toys for Tots drive. The kids were so excited to shop for a child they had never even met, but who would get to play with and enjoy the toys. We took part in church volunteer activities and found other organizations to help out. For example, a close friend works in hospice care and when my kids were too young to visit patients, they still were able to volunteer by making cards and writing letters to the hospice’s patients. There are many ways to get kids involved in helping others, even at a very young age. If you have a special interest in a particular organization or volunteer effort, contact them to find out how your family can get involved and what the kids can do to participate.
Tamara Walker, RN is a talk show host and speaker in Edmond. www.momrn.com.
So glad you asked. My family and I started a wonderful tradition a few years ago. Each Christmas Eve, we make cookies and treats and wrap them up in nice bags to take to people working the night before Christmas. The kids find it fun to wear their Christmas pajamas, drink hot chocolate and listen to Christmas carols while visiting people working during the holiday. Just this past year we visited the ER at our local hospital, spent some time with truckers at the local truck stop, and stopped at our local fire station to say thank you and Merry Christmas. The kids have a blast distributing the treats and it is a perfect opportunity to think and act in a way that celebrates our Lord. Not to mention, they seldom go to bed early that night anyway. If this isn’t of interest to you I would also offer the area Food Bank or local soup kitchens as alternative family trips during the holiday.
Donnie Van Curen, M.A., LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist with Counseling 1820, LLC. 405-823-4302, www.counseling1820.com.
The holiday season is a perfect time to practice generosity and a great time to teach it to your children. We hope that it overflows to a year-round trait they will carry with them through life.
Make giving a family project. If you see someone in need, or hear of an agency that you can contribute to, include your children in those projects. Brainstorm with them over your family mealtime—who would they like to help this holiday? What are some action steps they can take to help others?
There are hundreds of non-profits in the OKC metro area (Editor’s note: visit www.metrofamilymagazine.com/giving-back for our listing). Call one, or visit their website to learn the organization’s needs and whether or not there are opportunities for children to donate their time, energy or money. And remember that giving doesn’t have to take a lot of your time or money; look around and you’re sure to find many opportunities to help others.
Another exercise is to write down their blessings, material or otherwise. We all get caught up with what others have and what we don’t have. When we realize we have so much, it becomes easier to share with others.
Devonne Carter, LCSW, is a Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Edmond. 405-326-3923, www.carterscounseling.com.
Our Readers Respond:
- Leave a bag of unwanted toys out for Santa Claus to fix and give to kids who would otherwise not have any. The unwanted toys are then replaced with the new items your kids are getting for Christmas. We always let the kids pick out some new toys to give as well.
- Take kids to the shelter to volunteer. They will see that there are people who need things to keep them alive—not just clothes or toys. Not only will you be teaching your children valuable lessons but also helping people. They will see gratitude in the people they helped, which will make them realize generosity is rewarding.
- I do Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes with my kids (www.samaritanspurse.org/occ). I have them fill a shoe box for a kid their age and then we track it online to see what country it ends up in.
- We ‘adopt’ a foster kid to give gifts to through our church. This year, I am also doing the Need, Want, Share gift giving. They will get one Need gift, one Want gift, and one Share gift, getting back to the reason for Christmas and not just all about how many gifts they get.
Thanks to Amy F., Ashley V., Kristin W., and Joy H. for your feedback!
Have a question for our experts? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.