“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ― Winston S. Churchill
We’ve been hearing ‘Jingle Bells’ on repeat in the supermarket since November, when stores started counting down the shopping days ‘till Christmas. It’s so easy to get caught up in the frenzy of discounts, shopping lists and flashing lights, and to forget that this should be a time for family and friends, and for celebrating those that we love.
We often give a gift more for ourselves than for the giver. Taking the time to choose that perfect item, waiting to see that look on their faces when you get it right. It’s about the act of sharing, of making somebody happy. We tend to forget that in the rush to get the latest toy, or the last minute voucher. Why not give of ourselves, and why not teach our children to do the same?
Ask your children to help in planning, choosing and wrapping gifts. This makes them feel involved, and helps them grow out of the ‘me, me’ mentality. When children simply receive, they lose out on the many benefits of giving, such as feelings of well-being and happiness at seeing the joy of others. Children who are able to give make greater connections with those around them, and display more empathy and understanding of others, and they are never too young to start.
Like most values, giving is something we need to help children to understand. Teaching them that making a gift is an act of thoughtfulness, and takes time and patience. Modeling, coaching, and actively involving our kids instills the habit.
Here are a few practical tips that can help your family get started on charitable giving and thinking outside the normal comfort zone.
- Donate old toys, clothes and books to a school or creche in your area. Take the kids along when you drop it off , so that they can get a real sense of where their ‘stuff’ is going.
- Donate time, and go and visit an old age home, or the local animal shelter. Make sure your kids are old enough not to feel sad or stressed in this situation.
- Encourage your children to help someone without expecting to get anything back. Take the neighbour’s dog for a walk, play a board game with a younger sibling, or unstack the dishwasher for mom and dad. Small steps set the trend.
- Set up a change jar in a visible place, and get everyone to contribute their loose change. You’d be surprised at how quickly the cents add up to Rands. Decide as a family what to do with the money.
- Encourage even the smallest children to make something as a gift. Whether it’s a crayon painting in a pasta decorated frame, or just a sincere hand-written note, it really is the thought that counts and the effort that reflects the love behind the gift.
The Santa’s Shoebox drive is a wonderful charity that delivers thousands of gift boxes to needy children at Christmas time, and we love the thought of a child opening that box and seeing all the goodies inside. Why not get your children to spend some of their pocket money on one or two small items in a box? Encourage them to write a Christmas note to the recipient, and help them share in the excitement of giving.
The best things in life aren’t things. — Art Buchwald