Moving into the holiday season, kids can easily get swept away thinking about the gifts they might receive. Piles of presents in stores and the constant bombardment of advertisements focused on self-gratification distract from the spirit of giving that we hope the holidays inspire.
Here are five tips that can help your children refocus their priorities and learn to value giving just as much as getting:
Pique their interest in giving by using their passions to spark a discussion about others’ needs. For example, many young children are passionate about animals. If this is your child, help them understand the needs of animals and that not all animals have those needs met. This can lead to exploring organizations in your community or globally helping animals, many of which offer concrete ways for people to support their efforts online. At Global Game Changers, we call a child’s cause their “Heart,” and we explore all kinds of different causes to find which one speaks to which child ― animals, bullying, poverty/hunger, the arts, veterans, the environment, or any potential object of their generosity.
Provide kids with the opportunity to exercise their talents in service of giving. They can get excited about creating gifts for others because they’ll feel proud of what they were able to produce. If your child enjoys art, help them brainstorm materials and give them time and space to create art pieces for friends and family as a gift. Not only will they be more enthusiastic about taking time out of the day to create the art, but they’ll also have more positive associations with the act of giving it away.
Model the value of giving. The best model for the value of giving is you. Take time to share or have your child witness the time you take or the thoughtfulness you spend on acts of giving rather than receiving. You can do this through acts of charity and giving and kindness to your own friends and family. You can also provide models by sharing the stories of individuals whose ability to give changed the lives of others. Both religious and secular texts have amazing examples to follow.
Maintain the spirit of giving year-round. While your focus on giving may be top of mind during the holiday season, it’s important to understand that embodying compassion and valuing giving should be embraced year-round. Just like reading or math, studies have found that compassion is something you can get better at with practice. You can look for intentional days to engage with the community on acts of service, like the National Service Days for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or Sept. 11. You can respond to events around you, such as natural disasters or acts of cruelty. You can also tie it to times of receipt (like birthdays or holidays), or you can just do it on your own schedule.
Remind your children that they have a special power to give. At Global Game Changers, we call it their “Superpower,” and tell them to find it using our Superpower Equation: MY TALENT + MY HEART = MY SUPERPOWER!® Their Superpower is all about how they use their talents to impact their “heart” causes; everybody’s superpowers, used repeatedly, make our world a better place.
Within all of us, there resides a natural heart for giving. It’s our job as parents and caregivers to model caring for others and help others to let that heart shine.