The holidays should be a time to count and reflect on our blessings. But when Santa pops up here, there and everywhere, kids are constantly thinking this must be the season of getting. Although most of us are able to provide our families with the basics of food, shelter and clothing, rampant commercialism surrounding the holidays can make kids feel deprived, even if their toy box is already overflowing. With easy credit and inexpensive toys made overseas, today’s kids often don’t want for anything—or—at least not for long.
When the holidays roll around, grandparents, aunts and uncles want to buy gifts for the kids. Add Santa to the mix and soon that present pile is growing. Small children especially can be overstimulated by all the toys and as a result may not play with any of them for long. So what can we do as parents to help our children be thankful instead of contributing to the next entitlement generation? Here are a few ideas:
Before the holidays, try doing a toy “clean out.” Help kids choose which toys they no longer play with and donate them.If your children already have more than enough toys, consider asking grandparents and other relatives to give something different such as a holiday outfit or book.
Build charity into your holiday budget. Many organizations collect new toys for children in need. Let your children help you pick out a small gift and let them be involved in delivering the donation. Explain that not every child gets all they want for Christmas. If they are old enough, encourage them to contribute some of their own money toward such gifts.
Do the same with food. Explain that not everyone has enough to eat. The little ones won’t quite get it, but you are planting a seed. Or consider volunteering with your children at a soup kitchen or with another group that feeds the hungry.
Encourage children to give presents. This helps to shift the focus to “giving” rather than “getting.” No need to always buy; your child could draw a picture or make a simple craft for relatives, or perhaps bake cookies for the neighbors.
Have them write thank-you notes. These are appreciated, especially for out-of-town relatives who don’t get to see your child open their gift. For the preschooler, you can write the note, then let them decorate or color the card. Older children can write their own.
Please say thank you. It sounds simple, but teaching basic manners at a young age does make a difference. At first, kids may only do it when reminded, but eventually it becomes a habit.
Start family traditions that focus on your blessings. One idea is to make a list of the things for which they are thankful. This can be done in the form of a craft, by having them make or color a “thankful tree” (draw a tree and write the things for which they are thankful on the leaves).
Finally, encourage thankfulness year-round. Many charities need help the rest of the year as well as during the holidays. Continuing charitable giving after the holidays is a good way to remind our children and ourselves of all the things we have that are worth appreciating.
Tiffany Doerr Guerzon is a freelance writer and the mother of three children.