How can I help my kids enjoy the spirit of giving?

Yogi Cameron Alborzian
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

It can be difficult to convey the significance of seva (selfless service) and giving to children, especially given how we want to gratify our senses to such a great degree when we're younger. But following the teachings of seva doesn't have to start well into middle age. There are ways to ease ourselves into a new way of behaving and relating to the world through incremental change--this concept can be applied to kids as well.

If you would like your children to genuinely connect with the idea that it can benefit them to conduct themselves selflessly, try taking them holiday shopping to buy a gift for someone else like a child who lives in a shelter. When they participate in the experience of obtaining something for someone else, they can begin to see how an act of service can have a positive impact on the world around them. Then, the following year, bring them along to an act of volunteering. Gradually, over time, they will grow to understand how they can be of service to the world.

Erik Fisher
Psychology
Talk to your kids about what you want them to learn from the holiday, and let them know that you want to focus on what you all have rather then what they will get. You also want to talk about how you have learned that happiness doesn't lie in how much you get or what you have, it lies inside of us. You may want to then encourage your kids to develop a season of giving and see how you can help others in inexpensive ways. Here are a few ideas:
  • Each day leading up to Christmas, go around the dinner table and have everyone say something they feel gratitude for.
  • Each person in the family makes a present for someone else in the family with a dollar limit.
  • Perhaps even consider contacting the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to help provide Christmas for a child in foster care.
  • As a family, make cookies, a meal or something nice for someone or a family who is having challenges.
  • Try to get a group together to sing at a retirement home.
The goal is to change the focus to what they can give and have them find happiness in sharing with others. Start a new tradition this year that may carry on for generations, and let the "Spirit of Santa" fill your heart instead of your stocking. I would ask you to have yourself and children consider this: Ask not what Christmas can do for you, but what can you do for Christmas.
Michele Borba
Psychology

Here are a few tips to get you started in a gimme-less holiday and help your kids enjoy the spirit of giving:

Give things that boost “togetherness.” Think of giving gifts you do “with” one another instead of alone: board games, certificates to a movie, passes to a skating rink, tickets to a concert, exercise equipment. Think also of implementing family rituals. Instead of spending the morning unwrapping presents (and then picking up all that clutter), watch It’s A Wonderful Life, or read A Christmas Carol or sing carols and drink hot chocolate while remembering the things you’re grateful for this year.

Require prioritizing. Set a cap on the number of gifts and cost per kid. But warn the kids ahead of time. Tell them to think through what they really, really want and need this year. They must prioritize their wish list into their “Top Three”–or whatever number you set–want list. Young kids can draw a picture of their wishes. Then stick to that number!

Get grandparents and relatives on board. Pass on your new “giving emphasis” policy to grandparents and relatives. Suggest they give presents that will nurture their relationship with their grandkids, like a trip together or a digital camera to exchange pictures and keep in touch. They could also contribute to your child’s college fund.

Nurture a strength or skill. Instead of giving a dozen items that end up in the closet, think of gifts that could actually nurture your child’s strength or talent such as a musical instrument, art materials, or skating lessons. Those are gifts that really do keep on giving!

Be a charitable family. Find a needy family your kids can “adopt” for the season. They could then bake an extra batch of cookies for the lonely neighbor next door, adopt an orphan overseas (a portion of their allowance each week goes to that child), go caroling to a nursing home and add a little joy. Find just one way to help your children experience the joy of giving.

There are dozens of ways to rethink the holidays, so our kids can learn that the real spirit of the holidays is about Giving not Getting. Remember, all you need to do is make one little switch—just one. What are you doing this year to bring back that Giving Spirit?

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.