I like to joke that my kids are spoiled, but not spoiled rotten. The fact is that in some ways they live a life of excess. Just last year they went to Walt Disney World three times – twice for work-related trips with me, and once for a fun weekend getaway. I’ve never said no to the purchase of a book. And as a family, we love to go out to eat to celebrate, well, just about anything.
But with every extravagance, we’ve been careful as parents of two impressionable young people to remind them that these experiences are blessings, not entitlements.
One way that we drive this point home is through teaching our kids to give back, not just now during the holiday season, but year round. Some of the ways that we do this are…
Including them in our decisions about charitable contributions.
Each year my husband makes donations through a program at work, and he asks our kids to help him choose the charities to receive his donations. In the discussions about which charities to choose, we also talk with the kids about why donations are necessary and who they help.
Participating as a family in fundraising activities.
The March of Dimes is one of our family’s favorite organizations, and each year we participate as a family in the annual March for Babies. This gives the kids a sense of the hard work it takes to raise money for those who need it because they are actually out there with us working to raise those funds through the walk. Having this experience has given us many opportunities to talk not only about this charity of choice, but also about how thankful we are for our children’s health.
Asking them to help choose gently used toys to donate.
We have tried to encourage our kids to not only appreciate the things that they have, but also appreciate that a time comes when other children would get more use and enjoyment out of those toys. Change in season, birthdays, and winter holidays are great times to go through toy boxes and make decisions about what to keep and what to donate.
Sponsoring a child through Compassion International.
While certainly there is a lot of economic diversity here in the United States, we also want our children to have a solid understanding of the extreme adversity those in the developing world face on a daily basis. As a family we sponsor a child named Meke who was born ten years to the day before our son and is living a much different childhood. As members of our church’s Cherub Choir, our kids also help sponsor a little girl named Jamilla.
Giving to our church.
Each week the kids put a dollar in a container in their Sunday School classes to help raise money for a variety of causes throughout the year. Their teachers educate them on each program so that they can get excited about the goal they are working towards together as a Sunday School.
Gifting to charity organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse at the holidays.
There are so many amazing opportunities during this time of year to donate toys, clothing, household items, money and time. One charity that we support as a family with the help of our kids is Samaritan’s Purse, specifically through their Operation Christmas Child program and their Christmas Gift Catalog. Even as I write this my family is in discussions about what to donate this year – I vote for a goat!!
Expecting them to be generous with each other year round.
It’s important for our kids to know that they are very blessed and that our hard work and careful decision making has given us opportunities as a family that many other families around the world are not fortunate enough to have. But it is also important for them to understand that being giving and generous doesn’t need to involve an intangible someone on the other side of the world. As much as it helps me to know that they’re “getting it” when they want to help others, it makes me just as happy when one of them receives something special and shares it immediately with the other.
How do you teach your children about giving during the holidays and year round?