Share The Spirit Of Giving
Teaching your children charity
by Barbara F. Backer
for Real Families, Real Fun
he holidays are approaching and everyone has visions of sugarplums, toys, sporting equipment and new clothes in their heads. This is a good time for families to prepare for the holidays by going through closets and toy chests and taking usable items to places that collect and repair them before donating them.
Family members find it easier to let go of treasured items when they know these will soon be well loved by those less fortunate. Talk as a family before you begin this weeding out process. Alison K. reports that her children go through all of their toys and give away many of the less-used ones before the holiday. "Each of our three boys gets a special bag to put them in. We then bring them to a local charity's store for people in need." The boys go to school at the church where the store is located and see that people do come there and the toys are appreciated.
Another family reports, "We've always told the kids that the more they give, the more they will receive." That universal truth is a message children understand when it relates to concrete items. Help your children understand that others can enjoy their outgrown toys, clothing, worn books and videos because not all families are as fortunate as yours. Jody M. reports, "After we told our children that we would give some of our things to less fortunate families, they were very excited to help. They were even willing to give up some of their favorite things."
Alison K.'s children wanted to know why Santa doesn't visit some children's homes. "At our house, our kids get many gifts from parents and relatives, but Santa only fills their stockings and brings one present. We explained that Santa does visit these families, too, but they don't get as many gifts that we receive from grandparents and others in our family. I want my children to understand how lucky they are," Alison said. "I don't want them to think that they are 'better' because they have more, only that they are more fortunate." Giving to others as a family helps children see this.
Let your children know there are other ways of giving to people. Some families shop together for items to donate to Toys for Tots or to other toy drives that distribute new toys to the needy. Encourage children to take a few dollars or coins from their own savings. Give each an additional few dollars and let them pick out items that will fit within their budget. Encourage your children to place their gifts in the collection box, and watch TV reports of the items being delivered. This shows the children the end result of their generosity.
Remember that "less fortunate" includes animals, too. Take kitty litter, newspapers and animal food to an animal shelter. The LaClair family reports, "We decided to bring treats to the shelter where, last year, we adopted our dog, Ginger. Twelve-year-old Ryan asked if we could bring Ginger with us, and we enjoyed showing the shelter workers how beautifully the dog has grown." The children walked through the shelter to deliver their gifts and to visit all the animals that were still waiting for homes.
For a gift that gives for a lifetime, consider adopting an orphaned animal like the LaClairs did. Alison K. says, "One of our cats was found in a dumpster, and it really hits home that his 'brothers' may not have families." Alison's children have a daily reminder of the rewards of doing a good deed.
Children who are involved in giving to others and seeing the results of their good deeds have a better appreciation of the gifts they receive. Introduce them to the rewards of goodwill.
TAKE IT FROM ME:
"Talk with your children about how everyone doesn't grow up in a similar environment to theirs. After hearing that we would give donated items to children less fortunate, our children were very excited to help. I was moved to see just how generous my children can be." -- Jody M.
"When Jack got back from trick-or-treating this year, I asked him to pick a few things to keep and the rest we'd drop off at the local school that was collecting candy for kids who didn't have any. He only set aside only four pieces to keep. I was really surprised that he didn't ask for any of his candy back the next day. A new goal for us will be continuing to do something like this throughout the year. Plan now for future activities." -- Lynda Hannan
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