As a parent, there are many lessons you must teach your kids. You begin with basic life skills like getting dressed, tying shoes, brushing teeth, and potty training. And once your kids have moved beyond the walking and talking phase, it gets a little more interesting. Now you can begin to share your massive knowledge of the world. And believe it or not, your brain houses a virtual warehouse of information that your kids need to absorb, whether it’s seemingly simple stuff like the number of hours in a day, the number of days in a week, and the number of weeks in a year, or you’re trying to help them with their calculus homework. However, they’ll get a lot of help with these academics at school. Your true purpose as a parent is to give your kids lessons in life that will help them to function when they enter the world as adults. You must teach them to care for themselves, to know right from wrong, and to behave in a manner that is both safe and legal. But you also have to give them a sense of social responsibility and some measure of compassion for their fellow man. And there’s no better time than the holidays to pass on this important lesson.
In truth, most of us get so wrapped up in the demands and stresses of our daily lives that we can sometimes forget about the people who are less fortunate than we are. This doesn’t make you a bad person; we only have so much capacity to care for others before we must attend to our own needs, and your family is your first concern. But when the holidays roll around, a couple of things happen.
The first is that we stop our mad dash for a moment and give thanks for all that we have. What happens next, however, is not nearly so heartwarming. Many of us begin to spend money like it’s going out of style, gathering up gifts for our loved ones that they may not need or want simply because gifting at this time of year is expected. Some people put themselves into debt because of this perceived obligation. And the worst part is that this smorgasbord of giving really benefits no one in need.
So maybe this year it’s time to rethink your strategy and make the holidays a learning experience for both you and your kids. Consider how often you get gifts from your family and friends that you don’t especially want knowing they spent more money than they can afford. This year, why not give (and receive) a better gift by telling them to donate to a charity in your name, and you’ll do the same for them? You can still get gifts for the kids, but since adults mostly get what they want or need on their own anyway, put your money to better use (and stick to a budget) by giving the money you would have spent on the adults in your life to others in need. Everyone can feel good about such a gift and you can set a positive example for your kids. And, to get your children involved, help them clean out clothing and toys they no longer need or use to donate to charity. This way they can actively give (and make room for whatever they get over the holidays, as well).
You might also consider donating your time and taking your kids along if they’re old enough. Since shelters and soup kitchens are often thronged by people trying to help at this time of year, think about visiting a retirement home, a veteran’s organization, or a hospital to offer assistance, sing carols, and read holiday stories to the residents. You could even help the kids put together a holiday play to perform. Illness, injury, and old age are part of life, but when you get your family together to make someone else’s holiday a little brighter, everyone benefits – and you’ll show your kids the true spirit of the holidays.
So, what do you teach your kids? Do they know the power of giving?