Last week, I was asked how I am teaching my kids to give back this holiday season. At first, it was difficult because we don’t do anything that stands out as spectacular, so I had a hard time thinking what to write in response. When I sent off my answers to the person who asked, her reaction was something along the lines of “it’s so great how much you do.”
That is when I realized, we do try to teach our kids about giving back, but it has been so ingrained as part of our daily lives and routine that it doesn’t feel like fancy or sparkly instruction but rather just part of our everyday fabric.
Even when we were at our financial lowest, it was important to me to teach my kids (and myself) about how fortunate we still were. Of course, we didn’t get the fanciest gifts and Santa was a minimalist, but under our tree were piles of goodies from loving family and friends and we tried to focus on all that we had instead of all that we didn’t and we tried to pass that on to our kids.
In addition, every year, we would pull three “Angel Tree” ornaments off the tree at church and use some of our very limited funds to buy gifts for others even less fortunate than we. There is a lesson there and I hope my kids got it. I know I did. I want my kids to view these acts of giving as our responsibility as people of the world. I don’t want them to view it as charity that wreaks of us being on any higher plane than those we give to. We’re all in this thing together and sometimes it’s just dumb luck why we’re the ones who can give instead of needing to receive and we have a role to play that comes with that luck.
The Husband’s family started a beautiful tradition for our sibling gift giving. We make a donation in our Secret Santa’s name to a charity or organization that has meaning to them. With my kids, we’ve extended it to birthdays as well. For Christmas, they get giftcards from Global Giving or Network for Good giftcards so they can go online and choose the charity they want to give their money to. They get so into it and I love watching them take ownership of their decisions because they really see the meaning behind it rather than just viewing it as another online purchase.
But, it’s not all about money it’s about time and being present in making change. We haven’t gotten brave enough to bring the whole crew to a food bank or soup kitchen, or go sing carols at a rehab facility, but we have helped wrap gifts for sponsored families and we do all we can to teach our brood gratitude in this season of glut.
As a matter of routine, we have a big house clean out before the holidays. We bag up old coats and winter gear to pass on to someone who needs them as well as toys and books and any other gear that our family has outgrown. In this way, I try to teach the kids that until you are grateful for what you already have, you can never truly have more and that if they’re asking for new, then they should share some of what they already have to make room for more.
My hope is that in cleaning out what they own, they will see how fortunate we all are and make room, not just on their bookshelves and in their toy bins, but also in their hearts for the abundance that is sure to come. Because, we are fortunate no matter how tight our budget. But unless my kids accept their great fortune with the the responsibility that comes with it, I will have failed at my job as a mom.
So, we’ll still trim the tree and open far too many presents, but hopefully, as a family, we’ll also spend some time being grateful for all we have and generous with all we are willing to give.
What are you doing to give back this holiday season? It’s not too late.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.