Give Your Kids The Gift of Gratitude This Holiday
Do your kids become completely different humans in the weeks leading up to Christmas? Do they turn into greedy little grinches who write lists miles long and constantly barrage you with what they “need?” It’s so easy for kids to get wrapped up in the materialistic society we live in, especially around the holiday season. They are constantly surrounded by media, pop culture, and their peers telling them what they have to have this year to be cool and look cool. Kids’ (and face it, adults) natural selfish tendencies show their head in full force this time of year. Let’s help turn that greediness into gratitude by teaching our kids (and possibly reminding ourselves) that the holiday season means more than just acquiring the latest “stuff.” We’re sharing a few simple ways you can instill the gift of gratitude in your children; a gift that will hopefully remain with them forever.
For kids to begin to feel and in turn, express gratitude, they need to understand what they have in comparison to others. They need to truly see how blessed they are and how much they have. This maturity comes with age, so while young children are unable to grasp this concept, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start teaching them as early as possible the basics of gratitude. Just don’t expect them to be able to express it until they are a bit older.
The best way to truly show kids how much they have is to show them those who don’t have as much. Get in the trenches with your kids, and find ways to give to those who are less fortunate. There are countless ways to help those in need, and by giving your children this opportunity, you will begin to foster a giving and gratitude filled heart.
- Create and hand out Blessing Bags with your kids. Talk about the homeless and how lucky and grateful we should be that we have a roof over our heads and food on our plates.
- Volunteering your time is a classic way to help instill gratitude into your children’s lives. There are always many opportunities available during the holiday season. Keep your ear out for ministries in your area that are looking for volunteers (especially ones that are good for kids to be involved in). Serve a meal as a family at your local soup kitchen, or pack up some shoe boxes for kids in need overseas through Operation Christmas Child.
- Sponsoring a child who lives in poverty is a good way to bring this close to home. Let your kids pick out the child they want to sponsor, based on age, sex, or location. Sponsoring through a company such as Compassion International allows you to write and send photos to your child as often as you’d like (and receive letters and photos back from your child as well). Not only do you make a tremendous impact on a child’s life, you can teach your kids so many great values and life lessons through this simple act. As a family, by making a monthly monetary commitment, this is a great way to continue the holiday spirit year round, and the perfect way to show your children how lucky they are.
- Set aside a couple of hours with your kids to go through their huge piles of toys and clothing. Donate anything they no longer play with or wear. Make sure that you actively involve your kids in this process, all the while explaining to them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Allow them to come with you to wherever you drop off the donated items.
- Every mall has the Christmas trees with the tags on them that are for gifting less fortunate children. Don’t just walk by them this year. Have your kids pick a tag or two and pick out the items together at the store. Talk about how these children are not able to receive many gifts for Christmas and how your family is able to help them because you have been given so much.
Don’t just go through the motions with these acts of service. Be sure to engage your kids in quality conversation so they can see the why behind their actions, which helps lead to experiencing an understanding and expression of gratitude.
Now that you’ve given more, it’s time to give less! It seems paradoxical, but the less you have, the more grateful you can be. You can truly appreciate things if you don’t have a whole bunch of them. As adults, we can understand that, so now let’s teach our kids. In order for them to be grateful and not greedy this holiday, simply give them less.
Instead of a whole tree filled with gifts, limit your gift giving this year. Not only is this great for your wallet, but you’re building your kids gratitude, contentment, and selfless qualities. There are many ideas and philosophies of how to go about doing this, so find what works for your family. The key here is to just give less than you have in past years. To help guide you, here is a popular idea from Zucchini Summer on how to keep Christmas gift giving simple.
While you’re limiting the amount of gifts for your kids, also consider gifting experiences and time together instead of just material items. These gifts will last much longer than the newest battery operated gadget. This can be anything from a family vacation to a homemade coupon book filled with fun things to do with your kids. This defeats the greed and increases gratitude by putting the focus on people instead of things.
SAY THANK YOU
The basis for gratitude is being thankful, and there’s no better way to relay that than by saying “thank you.” Such an easy thing to do, yet such a difficult thing for kids to be consistent about and say without being prompted. Don’t let the holidays be the only time during the year that you get serious about thank yous.
Any time your child receives a gift, make sure they write a handwritten thank you note to the giver as soon as possible. Check out A Beginner’s Guide To Manners: Thank You Notes for some tips on how to make that happen. Since lots of gifts roll in during the holiday, prepare ahead of time by having your child make a bunch of thank you notes and then personalize them after they receive a gift. Even young kids can get in this habit. They can scribble with a crayon and create their own “message” alongside the brief note you write.
Us as parents are our child’s best teachers, especially when we teach by action. Model your own gratitude often in front of your children so they can learn by doing. Go overboard on your thank yous, have them watch you write your own thank you notes, and demonstrate your giving to others. Teach your kids gratitude by being grateful yourself.
Finally, no matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs may be, switch the focus this holiday to the real reason for celebrating the season. Don’t make it be all about gifts and “things.” Show your kids that this time of year is about more than themselves. Participate in activities that emphasize this, such as church services or volunteering.
Gratitude is a tough thing to teach kids, especially during the holidays, but it’s worth the effort. Let’s raise kids that have an appreciation for others and for the things that they do have. We need more people like that in the world. And it starts at home, with you!
Tags: children, Christmas, family, gift gratitude, gifts, giving gifts, grateful, grateful children, gratitude, gratitude gift, gratitude holiday, helpful mom resources, holiday gratitude, how to, parenting, simple gift giving, thank you, thankful, thankfulness
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