As Christmas wonder gives way to Christmas splendor–in the form of presents given and received–take an opportunity to help your child develop lifelong ideas about the spirit of giving. We all say “it’s more blessed to give than to receive”, but consider how you’re modeling this in your own home during this season.
While young children are not known for their patience, they can learn to wait their turn. If you take turns opening gifts, everyone gets to enjoy the experience without missing anything. This also helps children recognize the giver and offer their appreciation.
Quantity does not mean the same thing as quality. Twenty-five gifts bought simply so you have one to open everyday of December is not the same as three gifts chosen thoughtfully with your child’s interests, abilities, and passions in mind. Huffington Post offered these great ideas for thinking through how we give to our kids and what our gifts say about who we want them to become. Think through the gifts you’re planning. Do they teach creativity, self-sufficiency, or appreciation? Or will this gift merely be forgotten by New Year’s?
Kids tend to be natural givers. It is often difficult for them to imagine that everyone’s family is not like theirs. Christmas is a great time to teach about socioeconomic diversity–without as many words.
Take your children to the store, and have them select items for donation to a collection drive such as Toys for Tots. For young children, choosing a toy they like, and then must give away, can be a difficult experience. Try to keep your explanation as simple as possible, “I can buy you gifts because we have enough money for those. But some families don’t have extra money like we do, so we are sharing.” Many local organizations and churches sponsor families for Christmas as well, so consider adopting a family unlike yours and having your kids help choose (and even buy if they have money) gifts to bless someone else.
But you can also model giving behavior within your own family unit as gifts are exchanged. If your child wants to buy (or wrap up something of his own) for a sibling, encourage that and reinforce that he should not necessarily expect a gift in return. Here’s one mom’s take on how they encourage giving over gimme.
In our culturally and socially diverse world, your child is bound to encounter children whose families do not celebrate Christmas or families who give frugally or cannot give at all. While it is natural for kids to discuss “what Santa brought”, teaching your children not everyone’s Christmas looks the same will serve them well throughout their youth. Offer them some ways to steer the conversation back to school or activities, so the emphasis for discussion does not remain on what Santa did–or did not–bring. Furthermore, even if you observe the Santa Claus tradition, it’s all right to explain to your child that not everyone believes and that’s okay. If you don’t teach Santa in your home, you’ll want to also remind your kids that their friends might believe and that is their choice, just as your family has made theirs. Ultimately, what you want to instill is respect for everyone’s different beliefs at this time of year. Remind your child that Christmas is not the only time we have to give and receive or offer service to others.
What are some unique ways you gift in your own family?