Learning to Give Is a Gift for Our Kids

Do our kids really need all of those gifts? These days, it seems like the gifts that go on for, well, days and days. My 9-year-old niece gets so many gifts during Christmas that they cover the floor of an entire room. But I have been guilty of that kind of excess, too.

My mother loved Christmas and she could not help herself when it came to my girls. We went to her house and they opened gifts. That’s after they opened gifts at our house. My mother always made sure they had an equal number of gifts and it was always way too much. There were toys, clothing, jewelry and money.

I would always start out by telling my girls to come up with a list of three things they wanted. Really wanted. I would get those things and then always wonder if I had enough for them and go back out and pick up clothing and gifts cards … and the list goes on. To be honest, part of the problem is they would always add to their lists. And I let them.

One holiday I decided that enough was enough. We were going to be true to the idea of giving.  I contacted an organization that works with families in need and offered to have a party for three families and their children. I got two of my girlfriends and their children on board. Seven of our kids were involved. The organization gave us a list of the kids’ ages, sizes and things they would like or need.

We hosted the families at the organization’s headquarters. We brought games along with beads and other tools to make jewelry, so the kids could create gifts. Our kids and the kids who would not have as much as ours that holiday shared, not just gifts, but dreams, aspirations and kid talk. Both groups of children learned a little about the other. It was a chance for our kids to understand how much they have materialistically and for the kids we were serving to be with peers who saw them as kids and not a circumstance.

I don’t want to come off as a pompous lady from the suburbs trying to teach lessons. I just wanted my kids to share what they had and realize that they are not entitled to anything. Anyone’s life could change in a minute. While the kids we were celebrating got a few gifts from us, it may have been all they got. But it was something.

You don’t have to throw a party for needy kids. You just have to embrace the season of giving.  Giving should go beyond the season. My children have spent time working in soup kitchens and offering food outside church on cold days. The experiences translated into empathy and giving throughout the year. Grace always initiated giving to the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. She even used her money to buy gifts. She also tutored students after school.  Through these experiences, she learned the value of giving and volunteering.

What you choose to do with your kids will become a tradition and could teach some valuable lessons that will last a lifetime. Ask your kids what they would like to do and how they would like to give to those less fortunate. One suggestion: In lieu of a gift they really want, they could ask you to make a donation. We have seen so much need as a result of natural disasters this year and there are plenty of groups helping the affected that could use our help.

“Things” become outdated and kids outgrow them, but giving experiences grow the heart and mind.

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