Teach Your Children to Give Thanks This Holiday Season
This time of the year children often spend time thinking about what they want. They make lists about the things they want, they write notes to a man who they hope will bring them items, and they wake Christmas morning excited about what they are going to find under the tree.
With all of this gift-getting, it’s easy for kids to think about what’s in it for ‘me’ and not what is best for everyone else. For that reason, I think it’s a great time of the year to remind kids about giving thanks for what we have and understanding that no matter what we have or don’t have, we can – on some level – help others.
So what can you do to remind your kids about the importance of giving thanks and helping others in need? Todd Patkin, author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and – Finally – Let the Sunshine In, shares these ideas with parents about how we can instill in our children the idea of giving back and giving thanks.
Make it an everyday thing. Here’s the thing: We may never have more than we have right now, but what we do have is more than what many people have. It’s important for our children to understand this; and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to help those less fortunate. Says Patkin, “The next time you’re grocery shopping with your children, for example, buy some extra canned goods and drop them off at a food bank on the way home in preparation for the Thanksgiving rush.” Cost: A few dollars. Reward: Your child sees that a little bit can go a long way to help others. Continue this throughout the year, assisting those in shelters and homes for those who can’t live without assistance. Then, says Patkin, “Encourage your kids to be giving during their own everyday tasks, whether that means sharing art supplies or helping clean up.” We want them to understand that giving can be of time, money, or assistance and that every time we give of ourselves and help others we are doing good.
Get kids involved in the process. As all parents know, kids love to be in charge of things! They like to be the generators of ideas, so sit down with your children when they are old enough and let them come up with a problem they want to help assist with, whether it’s helping those who don’t have enough food, giving school supplies to kids who can’t afford them, or caring for pets that don’t have a home. You can do this with kids as young as two by keeping it on a very basic level. Patkin says, “If they’re very young, you might give them a few options to choose from, such as feeding people who are hungry or getting winter coats for people who don’t have them. Then you can all work on finding a corresponding organization.”
Reinforce the value of a random act of kindness. Kindness doesn’t have to involve buying things for others. Kindness is also opening the door for an elderly person or helping someone load groceries into her car. And the more you model this behavior, the more your children are apt to carry on the tradition. “Guide your kids by pointing out opportunities for them to take the initiative in engaging in random acts of kindness,” instructs Patkin. The more you do this, the higher the chance your child will take initiative and do it on his or her own in the future. My daughter still recalls when she was two and a half and we stopped off to buy a special treat at the store. On the way out we encountered a homeless man; we opened our treat box and handed him one. To this day she brings this random act of kindness up.
How do you teach your children the value of being thankful and giving back to others? What strategies do you implement in your home?