As we head into the holiday season, both adults and children are bombarded by so many messages. It is the season of giving, but all those Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads and super sales encourage us to take advantage of the sales to buy ourselves that little something Santa won’t get us. Holiday magazines have been coming in for weeks, before Halloween in this house, making my children drool for new toys, before Trick or Treating and Thanksgiving Day even occurred. I am grateful that the season starts with a day of gratitude, family and acknowledgement of what we already have to be thankful for. My hope, as I am sure I do not say this alone or in a vacuum, is that this attitude extends far past Thanksgiving and Christmas, and has a permanent place in the hearts and minds of our children.
I recently read that while children used to have 100 toys in childhood, it is now common for a child to have 100 toys by the time they are one years-old. As I step on a soap box of sorts for the moment I ask, “ How do they learn to appreciate anything, when they have everything?” I guess this occurs if we let it.
My intention is not to be on a soap box right now but to ask how do we impart true giving and gratitude as values in our home, if we are of this mind-set. Nothing to me is more upsetting than a bad case of the gimmee gimmees, when our children have so much. In saying this, I truly mean my children, but in a larger sense, I know I am not alone in this feeling and fear. This is something my husband and I are truly trying to instill in our house.
I read a helpful article from the “Great Schools” newsletter this week that looked at this issue. It raised several good points. We can teach the value of giving when or children are small through “small” gestures, like baking extra cookies for the neighbors or a friend or shoveling both ours and an elderly neighbor’s walkway. We can show them that they do not have to have money to give, but can give of themselves—think breakfast in bed coupons for parents or siblings or dog walking coupons for the neighbor. Also, we can let our children decide where they would like to donate money if they normally put or would like to put pennies or spare change aside for a cause. If rescuing horses resonates, or helping Hurricane Sandy victims has your child’s attention, seize the opportunity. Help them connect this desire to help with real action.
Additionally, we need to personalize the experience of giving. It is one thing for grown ups to write a check for a soup kitchen, but quite another for the entire family to volunteer there. Like anything else with our children, children learn by what they see. Just telling them is never enough.