Let’s turn this holiday season upside down. Let’s shift the focus to giving rather than receiving. Let’s spend more time with our kids rather than spending time being frenzied in stores. Let’s help our children develop the gift of generosity.

With the country facing difficult economic times it’s an ideal time for us to shift the focus of our giving to others. Helping others feels good. Creating hand-made gifts and cards for others feels good. Donating gifts to others feels good. Your child will feel a sense of pride and higher self-esteem if you take the time to provide these opportunities.

While some children may be disappointed that you’re limiting the number of gifts they receive this year, ask yourself how many of the gifts that they received last year do they even remember?

This year, if you spend an afternoon delivering Meals on Wheels, making presents or having a cookie exchange would this create different, more meaningful memories that also reinforce values you believe are important?

Here are 11 tips on helping your child develop the Gift of Generosity:

1. Volunteer. There’s no better way to help children feel good about themselves than to volunteer. Consider ringing a bell for the Salvation Army, helping with Toys for Tots or delivering a meal. In the Twin Cities, where I live, we have two great on-line resources ( www.handsontwincities.org, www.unitedwaytwincities.org), but be sure to check out what’s available in your area. Also, consider volunteering as a family once a month in 2009 to live your values.

2. Make Gifts. Do you think Grandma would rather have a picture of your child in a handmade frame or another scarf? Which would your child feel more pride in? The scarf you bought with your money or the frame they decorated on their own? Should you buy a gift certificate for your child’s teacher or have your child create a gift for him/her? Family Fun’s website has over 6900 ideas for gifts that kids can make: http://searcha.familyfun.go.com/?q=gifts+for+kids+to+make&x=16&y=12

3. Create Giving Traditions. At our Thanksgiving dinner, the Garetz family gave each of my kids $40. They were asked to donate $20 to Heifer International, a program that provides the means for people to raise animals that create food and economic growth. (http://www.heifer.org/site/c.edJRKQNiFiG/b.204586/) This is a fabulous tradition the Garetz family created. What ideas do you have?

4. Three Gifts In, Three Gifts Out. If you plan on limiting the number of gifts your child receives to three, have your child pick three toys s/he already owns to give to charity. If possible, have the child come with to drop the item off at the donation center. (Of course, this also reduces clutter in your house, so it’s a win-win!)

5. Require Charitable Giving. If your child receives an allowance, have the child split the money into three separate piggy banks. One for spending. One for saving. And one for charity. Every three months have the child research charities and pick which charity should receive his/her donation.

6. Model It. Is there someone who’s sick or home-bound that you could make a meal for? Give a gift to? Help cheer up? Children will learn more by our example than our words.

7. Regift. White elephant parties are not only fun, but economical and environmentally-friendly. Have your child pick something s/he no longer likes, but others may enjoy. Wrap up the gift and let the party begin!

8. Start a Giving Circle. Giving Circles are like mini-foundations. Individuals meet, pool together donations they make and decide collectively who should receive the money. The groups can meet informally over a pot luck dinner or become legal entities. Here are links with more details.


9. Donate. Make a weekly contribution of food to a local food bank. Let your kids help pick the items and carry them in to the donation site.

10. Encourage Helpfulness. It usually takes more time when you have a child “help,” but if you keep your eye on the prize of developing a thoughtful, caring and generous child (and rid yourself of perfectionism), it’s worth the extra time.

11. Focus on Togetherness. If your child has fewer presents to open, there will be more time available. Consider filling this time with a fun new tradition like ice skating or actually playing with the new game/toy that was opened rather than shoving it in a heap.

I’d like to end with a quote I found on Oprah.com.

“Being a good person means doing good things – it doesn’t mean having a good heart. A good heart is worthless if you don’t have good hands. The heart is supposed to inspire generous actions.” Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Author's Bio: 

Visit www.getparentinghelpnow.com to receive the free mini-course “The 7 Worst Mistakes Parents Make (and How to Avoid Them!) and find instant answers to 17 common parenting problems. Toni Schutta is a Parent Coach and Licensed Psychologist with 15 years experience helping families find solutions that work.

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