The hustle and bustle of the Christmas season is always filled with lots of giving—at least as a parent. As a child, however, it's easy to see Christmas simply as a time for getting more stuff.
How can you slow down, model, and teach your child to give back this Christmas?
1. Give Time
One of the most important resources your child has is time. And we all have the same amount. We all have just twenty-four hours.
So teach your child to be generous with her time. Consider these options.
- Hold a food, toy, or clothing drive in your community.
- Carol at a local nursing home (consider bringing some homemade goodies with you).
- Volunteer at a charity like a soup kitchen. Websites like dosomething.org help you find ways to volunteer.
2. Give Resources
Teaching your child to wisely give of her own resources is a crucial way to help her develop an empathetic heart.
- Encourage your child to give her own money, not allowance money. Perhaps find creative ways to let your child earn money around the house to give to others in need.
- Have your child donate gently-used books, clothes, and toys. Homeless shelters and donation centers can always use more quality books, clothes, and toys during this time of year.
- Make brown-bag lunches as a family and then donate them to the poor in your area.
- Assemble care packages for other boys and girls. Operation Christmas Child (a Samaritan's Purse ministry) organizes these types of packages using a simple shoe box. Simply fill it up with small gifts and drop it off at a local donation center with a $7 donation.
- Start a "Giving Jar." Collect spare change all through the year in a jar. During Christmas time, donate it to a family in need. Yearly change can often add up to a few hundred dollars!
- Shop together with your child for a coat for a needy kid. Or you can make a donation towards a new coat at Coats for Kids.
3. Give Personalized Gifts
Sometimes the most meaningful gifts are handmade. Encourage your child to make something for someone else.
- Write a Christmas card for a local mailman or neighbor. Consider encouraging your child to make holiday cards for veterans (the Red Cross can help distribute these).
- Write a long-form letter to a grandparent or family friend detailing how much he or she means to your child.
- Buy a small tree and have your child hand-make personalized ornaments. Consider doing this for a new family in your neighbor hood or church.
- Make a "Giving Chain." Encourage your kids to come up with their own ways to give to people during the season. When they do give back, write their action down and make a paper chain. Throughout the season, watch the chain grow as your kids give to others.
A Few Parenting Tips
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you try to teach charity to your children this Christmas.
- Buy your gifts through Goodshop.com. This website gives money to a charity of your choice with every purchase.
- Don't wait until your kids are "old enough" to teach about giving back. Making charity a way of life from your child's first memory discourages hypocrisy and builds empathy for other people.
- Teach and model giving in the moment. For instance, if you pass a homeless person, privately teach your child how you can care for them (donations, volunteering time shelters, etc.).
- Talk about charity. A 2013 study from the Women's Philanthropy Institute found that what you say is extremely important. According to the study, "Talking to children about charity increases the likelihood that children will give to charity by %20." "This is true for children in families at all income levels and across gender, race, and age groups," says WPI's director.
Don't know where to begin? Just find one or two ways to teach charity and get started.