For many children, this time of year is about getting gifts far more than giving them. This is completely understandable, as these holidays are for many parents an opportunity to show children that we love them and we want them to be happy. But it's also important to teach our kids that giving presents can be as gratifying as getting them.
I believe that generosity is inherited. If we parents show our children how to care about others, they too will want to help out. Take time to put meaning in the holiday. Tell some stories of your most wonderful experiences, watch a family movie, be grateful, and consider these three simple suggestions to help get the message across:
1. Make them part of the giving process.
Ask your kids what they think their dad or mom might like for the holiday. Ask them about their siblings. Make the gift purchase your private conspiracy. (Besides, our kids are usually better informed than we are.) Let them see how excited you are about also being able to give. Take them shopping and make them part of the decision-making. Use the opportunity to teach them about budgeting by giving them an idea of what things cost. Teach them to budget, save, coupon-clip.
2. Create a family ritual and slow things down.
The holidays come and go quickly. To slow the process down, take some time to savor each experience -- like trimming the tree, lighting the candles, and decorating the house. Remember, until those gifts are opened we parents have enough leverage to insist on certain behaviors from our children.
Here's a suggestion that came from our very organized daughter. Instead of letting everyone just open their gifts in a paper-tearing frenzy, have everyone (including mom and dad), gather their unopened gifts in front of them. Once the gifts are gathered, go around the group, having each person open one gift at a time. This gives children the opportunity to share in the pleasure of seeing how excited others get, and it's also a way to prolong the fun for everyone. It takes a little discipline, but sharing the pleasure of the Holiday makes it that much more of a unifying experience.
3. Do something for others.
Whether you simply ask your children to help you decide on an online donation, hand them money to put into a Salvation Army kettle, or work serving holiday meals to the less fortunate, it is always good for children to see their parents being generous.
'Tis the time for all of us to promote "Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men" (and everyone else). This holiday season, give yourself a present by teaching your child how to be a loving and generous person.
That's a gift that will pay off for the rest of your life (and theirs).