Welcome to Blogmas 2017! Today Katelynne is guest blogging for us from The Disguised Supermom! Visit her at her website and say, “Hi!”
Anyone else find that their kids get an extra case of the “gimmies” this time of year? The list of things they need seems to be endless and it’s no surprise since they are constantly bombarded with images and ideas of things they have to have. It drives me crazy, but it’s not actually their fault. Instead, it’s the culture they’re surrounded by and more importantly, the example we set for them. If we want to raise kids who are just as excited to give than to receive, we need to teach them its importance.
As parents, we are trying to fight against this trend of “me-first” and raise our children to think of others before themselves, to do good in the world and always be on the look-out for ways to help somebody. There are great books to read, movies to watch and conversations to be had around these ideas but the truth is, our children will mirror what they see. Or more accurately, who they see – us, their parents.
I see two ways we can be more intentional about teaching our kids the joy that can come from giving to others, both which fit perfectly with this holiday season.
First, involve them in gift giving within the family. Let them help come up with the list of people that you need to purchase or make gifts for. For us, this includes grandparents, aunts and uncles. The kids also love adding each other and mom and dad to the list. Once you have your list of people, ask them to help you brainstorm ideas. Even if you already know what you’re getting them, give them a chance. I’m always impressed by the thought my kids put into it – even if the actual gift idea seems crazy to me!
If you’re purchasing gifts, consider bringing them with you when you do the shopping. Yes, it will probably take a little longer and may be more stressful but it will be worth it. My kids get so excited to help pick out gifts for others! Make no mistake though, they still need a gentle reminder from time to time to think about who the gift is for instead of themselves – especially if we’re at a toy store!
If you usually make your gifts (or even if you are purchasing gifts yourself), let the kids make their own gifts to give. The gifts can be as simple or elaborate as you want to make them – the age and personalities of your kids will probably determine this. Kids love giving people homemade creations and most people I know also love receiving them.
Kids can also make or decorate the cards, gift bags or wrapping paper. Last year, I purchase 2 rolls of plain brown packaging paper to wrap our gifts in. Once they were wrapped, the kids got to decorate them with markers, crayons and stickers. You can be sure they were more excited to hand those out than the ones in store bought paper!
The second way to teach your children to think of giving over receiving is through acts of kindness. Last year, we started the tradition of doing as many acts of kindness throughout the month of December as we could. Before the month started, I had a general list of ideas I planned to incorporate but the kids quickly started coming up with their own ideas too. Again, how you implement this depends on the ages of your kids, but it can be done with any ages!
Some of our favorite ideas include:
- Bring coffee or hot chocolate to the Salvation Army workers outside the supermarket
- Visit an elderly neighbor who lives alone
- Donate food to the food pantry
- Make Christmas cards for a nursing home
- Leave a treat for the mailman
- Make thank you cards for the librarians
- Take supplies to an animal shelter
- Donate a pair of pajamas to a child in foster care
There are countless other acts of kindness that can be done with very little prep and minimal money. My kids are young (5, 3 and 1) so I try to keep our list do-able for them. I want these activities to be things they can do themselves. For example, when we donated food to the food pantry, we went to the grocery store just for this and the kids each got to pick 5 items to purchase. Last year, I brought them to the aisles with the staples – pastas, canned goods, cleaning supplies – but my oldest insisted on going to the baby aisle. When I asked why, she responded “I want my 5 things to be baby food, babies need to eat too.”
If we give our kids the chance, they will rise to the occasion.
Things are simpler for them –
Someone is hungry, of course we feed them.
Someone is cold, of course we get them a coat.
Some kids won’t get presents this year, of course we should get one for them.
Somewhere along the lines as we grow up, things become more complicated but kids are naturally giving people. It’s our job as parents to nurture that instinct by giving them a strong example to follow.
Katelynne is married to her high school sweetheart and is a stay at home mom raising three little ones (ages 5, 3 and 1) in Connecticut. You can find her running around with the kids, homeschooling, chasing chickens in the backyard or curled up with a good book and strong cup of coffee. She blogs at www.thedisguisedsupermom.com about how mamas can simplify life at home and how to incorporate literature into your everyday living and learning.