Teaching our Kids the Spirit of Giving on Christmas

Ever since I was little, Christmas has always been about giving gifts...for a child, it was more of receiving gifts than giving. Thus, the concept of Santa Claus was born. It is a common belief among children that Santa Claus goes around the world giving gifts to nice little boys and girls. My parents would always use "Santa Claus" when I did something bad saying I would not get any of the things I wished for when Christmas comes. Honestly, I never did get anything I wanted and if I did, it was a bit misconstrued. Like for one Christmas, I asked for a Cabbage Patch Kid but got a life-size Rainbow Brite instead. Seemingly, I always felt that Santa Claus was always pranking me. When I became older, I knew better...and started asking for shoes and bags instead.☺

When my family moved to the Philippines, I found that there were so many people who were less fortunate than I. Because of this, my family would help those in need as much as we could.  My father gave most of my old toys to little girls, my bother's too, to little boys, in our area.  You should have seen the happy faces of those kids. Until now, my family still helps the less fortunate by giving school supplies and scholarships to children who can not afford to go to school.

Childhood aside, gift-giving during Christmas has become a ritual of sorts, a lifelong habit. When you ask someone what is the first thing that pops in his head when he hears the word Christmas, you usually hear the word gifts or presents. Sure thing, the Yuletide season is the one season where everyone is busy "giving". For us parents, we give to our children, grandparents to their grandchildren; while for our children, exchanging gifts with their friends and cousins. But what about those out there whom we don't know? Giving for a noble cause? How do you teach children to give to others without expecting anything in return?

Instilling generosity as a value to our children is of utmost importance and not an easy task for any parent. If you had read one of my older posts-5 Tips on Raising a Child Who's Thankful not Entitled, children today tend to be self-absorbed and are materialistic, always wanting things for themselves so, when it comes to giving to others, it may be a concept that may be difficult for them to register. Thus, it is up to us parents to ingrain generosity in our children and a perfect time is Christmas- the season of giving. We can start by teaching them about holiday giving and continue the process of instilling generosity as a lifelong value. As we all know, it is very rewarding to give to others and Christmas is a great time to teach our kids about thinking and helping others, most especially those in need.

Here are 5 tips that can help you teach your children about the spirit of giving...starting from within the family and progressing towards giving to other people.

1. First of all, gift them experiences not just material gifts.
Looking back at our own childhood, it's usually not the gifts or even the number of gifts we remember most about Christmas but, the fun and fond memories that come with it. Being with our grandparents, making snow angels and a snowball fight, having too much cake and candy canes til we had a tummy ache, having the family together for the holidays, drinking cups of hot cocoa by the Christmas Tree and counting all our marshmallows... Those were my fond memories of Christmas. Make Christmas an occasion that your kids can remember by shifting the focus from the material aspect of Christmastime towards making happy memories as a family. Watch a holiday movie together, go on a road trip to visit theme parks or homes with a fabulous display of lights, bake cookies or cake, or in the case of the Philippines make it a time to make sundaes or other frozen desserts- my favorite is the fruit cocktail float.

Of course, it isn't Christmas without the presents. When we give presents focus on quality, not quantity meaning instead of giving a child a huge pile of gifts, limit the number of gifts per child and get them what they really want. If necessary, pool resources with other family members so it becomes a family effort and makes it affordable for everyone. On Christmas day, take turns opening presents instead of everyone just ripping the wrapper off their gifts at the same time. When you take turns opening presents it allows the whole family to participate with one another's gift opening and allows the recipient of a gift the opportunity of thanking the person who gave the gift.

2. Instill a sense of gratitude and count your blessings (the ones that count).
Manners count and saying "thank you" is a very important social skill that should be taught at an early age. Although young children do lack spontaneous empathy and may not understand the true implications of what they are saying, the point is to begin the habit. Eventually, as they become older, they will understand why saying "thank you" is so important.

To truly instill a sense of gratitude in our children, we should lead by example and model good behavior. After the holidays, take the time to make thank you notes with your children. This serves the dual purpose of defining the gift as a thing and bolstering empathy. It instills gratitude while counting their blessings. Explain to your children the point of writing the thank you note and talk to your children about being grateful for the gifts they received, about the effort that the people put in to give those gifts to them, that it is such a blessing to have such wonderful people in our lives, and a little thank you note will make those people happy about giving those gifts because they will be able to know that they are appreciated wholeheartedly. This simple token of gratitude is a wonderful way of showing your children that when we count our blessings, we should count the one that matters most.

3. Help your children help others. Do it together. 
Lead the way for your children. As parents, our children listen and often emulate us. When we are giving, they will be giving. Philanthropy can be introduced to our children at a young age- as a family effort. Family bonding through the act of charity is something that can bring a family closer over a lifetime. It will make all the family members feel good in the process.

Share a mug of hot chocolate...
Image credit: Pixabay
Find a cause that your child has mentioned or a cause that the whole family agrees on. It may be as simple as giving toys or books to an orphanage or a pediatric cancer ward or baking brownies to hand out at a soup kitchen. By making it a family effort, parents can teach children life's important lessons and skills as they relate to dealing with various kinds of individuals; most importantly children will learn the importance of helping the less fortunate or those in need. Show them that it is such a great feeling to make other people feel special too.

4. Make giving an activity that they can enjoy.
When we make philanthropy interesting and pleasurable, children will want to make it a part of their lives. Although giving is meant to benefit someone else, it shouldn't feel like a burden for the children. For example, kids love to collect stuff. Some children can collect hotel-sized shampoo and soaps to give to homeless shelters. Others can go around the neighborhood collecting pre-loved items that can be donated to the less fortunate. Children can also ask friends and family to donate toys or books to be given to an orphanage of their choice. Another is collecting school supplies mainly markers, chalk, art supplies that can be donated to public school teachers. Children love seeing the bulk of their labor, and by doing these things they will surely continue on doing it because they enjoy it so much.

Visit our dear Lolo's and Lola's at the "Home of the Aged" near you. Image credit: Pixabay
5. Carry on after Christmas...do it all the time. Lend a hand...
Make it a routine part of life, not just a Christmastime activity. One of the greatest values that we can teach our children is to give, on random occasion, without expecting anything in return. Doing simple random acts of kindness- by simply being alert to other people's needs and acting on it. Thus, a giving spirit can be instilled by these small everyday acts of kindness. Giving up your seat for someone when using public transportation, opening the door for a stranger, helping an elderly woman cross the street, helping someone with their groceries, sharing food, or just by giving someone a smile and treating a person with kindness. Encourage your child, show them yourselves how wonderful it is to give or help someone. In the end, they will benefit from this process and grow up to be kind and generous adults.

For this Christmas, ask your child "What are you giving for Christmas?" Tell them that it doesn't have to be a gift but, a good deed for someone else. Listen to your child...and help them give to others. We should encourage our children to share in the pleasure that giving produces. It will make them happier and healthier and it will make the world a better place.

Hope you enjoyed this post. You can PiN IT.


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