“It’s better to give than to receive.” The truth of this saying can only be appreciated by someone who has felt the happiness of giving; the deep thrill and great satisfaction of being the architect of someone else’s happiness. Giving is the best way to produce the feeling of being needed, of feeling useful, and essential; of finding your place in the world and your connection to others. When it comes to our children, there is no better way to raise their self-esteem, empathy and connection to others than to help them learn about giving firsthand.
During the holiday season when our kids are madly studying the toy websites and mailing off lists to Santa, we get fooled into thinking that children receive and adults give -- but we shouldn’t short change them so easily. Children love to be givers every bit as much as adults do, and it’s so important for their burgeoning self-esteem and social interest for them to have this opportunity. Giving boosts your child’s feelings of self-worth because they see and feel how their caring helps someone else.
There are many ways to tap into their innate desire to care. Kids love to give gifts, they love to make gifts, and they love to see the reactions of their friends and family when they hand them something that is from them. They are also happy to donate, to be part of a fundraising project that will give a less fortunate child something that they may take for granted. They want to open their hearts and find a way to make a difference. Here are some ways to share the true joy of the holiday season with our children, by giving the gift of giving.
Make Gifts Together
The internet is a vast resource for ideas on child-friendly hand-made gifts. Surf the web with your child to get ideas on what they can make for friends, relatives and teachers. Then set aside a day in December to work on your home-made presents. Crafts or food gifts are great fun to make, and your child doesn’t need to spend money and shop in a store to have something to give. A prettily wrapped box of homemade cookies is always appreciated.
Many children receive more gifts than they need from well-meaning friends and relatives. This surplus can be shared with other, less fortunate kids. The fire station in every community generally collects gifts to donate to needy families. Many newspapers collect toys for the underprivileged. Encourage children to share their bounty.
We know lots of children who enjoy making a donation from their allowance to the charity of their choice. They may enjoy doing a little research about how these charities work and who benefits from their donations. For instance, if they have a love of animals, they may wish to help the humane society or the WWF. If they are interested in science, they may like to help an environmental group. If someone they know is suffering from an illness, they may want to help a hospital or foundation. Or, they may simply want to help needy children locally or in another part of the world.
Giving your time is a great way to make a difference. Although some organizations accept only adult volunteers, many will accommodate children as well. Check out religious or non-profit organizations, schools, shelters, Parks & Recreation departments, senior citizen homes, food banks, and local vets and humane societies. These experiences can be both fun and serious, giving a child some first-hand understanding of needs in their community. They will also meet some great people who help others, and these people can become positive role models.
Used Toys and Clothing
As you head into the holidays, earmark a morning to go through closets and toy chests. Donate used items to the charity of your choice. Involve your child in each step of the process, including bringing the boxes of used goods to the shelter or drop-off centre. This helps children understand where their things are going and who will benefit from the donation.
If you are planning on hosting some seasonal get-togethers, involve your children by giving them a role in the actual party itself. For example, children can help decide which hors d’oeuvres to serve, how to decorate your table, or help guests with their coats and boots. When parents tell their children, “I really need your help and ideas for the party,” kids are more than willing to pitch in. If kids have a special musical or dramatic talent, a performance can be given.
Hunger is an ever-present problem in almost every community. Food banks ask for extra donations during this time of year to replenish their stocks and meet the ever-rising need of people who cannot afford to feed their families. Children can be introduced to the food bank, and be with you when you make a donation.