It’s a hard time of year to keep your kids from behaving a little bit brattier than usual. Everywhere you go, there is some well-intentioned stranger asking your sweet kids what they “want” for Christmas or if they’ve been good so that they can get presents. It drives me crazy, because simultaneously we’ve got people starving and kids who are going without their basic needs being met, and yet every other day people are asking me what my boys want or need because they can’t even think of anything these kids could possibly need. They have it all- they have more than enough. And I’m just as guilty, making lists to be sure that I’ve got something for them to open for each of the eight nights of Chanukah and wondering to myself if it’s “ok” for them to get shared gifts on a few of the nights. The holidays make us all a little bit crazy.
I try to be mindful of raising my kids to understand the importance of giving to others and also to understand the privileges that they were have that others are not granted. We do a lot throughout the year to show our kids the importance of sharing what we have. Whether it’s paying the toll of the person driving behind us, giving money to strangers on the street or bringing food donations to our local pantry, I do educate my kids on the fact that kindness is contagious and that not everybody has all that we do. I have them sort through their toys and find ones they don’t play with often to donate. I let them pick the foods from the pantry that we give away, and let them physically stock the food pantry’s shelf with those items. Also, when my kids ask for things, I tell them to look around and see all that they have. I refuse to have the kids in Target who are screaming and crying for a toy, because:
a) As I tell my boys all the time, there’s no crying in Target. Target is our happy place. 🤗
b) I’m trying hard to intentionally raise people who are grateful and not entitled, who have a sense of how lucky they are.
The thing is, it requires intention. If we don’t go out of our way to create this type of environment of gratitude and generosity, it’s not likely to happen organically. Kids need us to show them in tangible ways how we can help others.
One thing that we do now that we are parents is “adopt” a family every year to help them with holiday gifts. We and our siblings and their spouses forego holiday gifts to one another and instead, we get matched up with a local family who is in need of some assistance this year. We shop for those children instead of for one another. It’s something that I have my kids help me with and I’m sure to explain to them how important is that we do this for them; how it’s our job to help others. I find it to be an impactful way to let them understand how impactful they can be with a simple act of kindness and generosity. From selecting the gifts to wrapping them and preparing them for drop off, the boys can directly see the impact that they can make. Last year, the mom of the boys who we “adopted” sent photos of her kids tearing into their Christmas presents. It was wonderful to be able to show the boys the effect of their generosity and thoughtfulness.
When I first looked into organizations that help facilitate such an endeavor, I was overwhelmed with choices right within my own community. I’d had no idea that there were so many options in my own backyard. I encourage you to ask around about what exists in your area, and take this practice on this year.
For those of you who happen to be local to the Hudson Valley, we’ve been adopting via Hudson Valley Kids, who keep an active list of the families who are in need right on their Facebook page, and Angels of Light.
Angels of Light has giving trees set up at many locations throughout the Hudson Valley. Each tree is personalized with a picture and a story of a family and has ornaments with a requested gift displayed on them. You select an ornament of your choosing, purchase the item, and return it unwrapped in a gift bag with the receipt and the ornament attached to the same location. This is a great way to help a family if you’re on a budget and can’t sponsor an entire family’s wishlist.
What do you do during the holidays to teach your children about giving?