By Jill Simeone -
Teaching little children to share is a very hard lesson. Little Alex has a fabulous red truck, why would he want to let anyone else play with it?
Giving takes sharing a step further...Alex has to part with that fabulous red truck permanently...and someone else gets to keep it! WHAT?
Of course, the values of sharing and caring for others are core to teaching empathy, and an essential part of the the larger social fabric of family and community life.
While I am not one to spend a lot of ink on so-called "family values" (which are often not universal), I do notice that most families struggle with teaching children the joy of giving. This is especially apparent around the holidays, when little kids get flooded with want-want-want and have a hard time (because of where they are developmentally) seeing needs beyond their own.
Greatschools.org has some really helpful tips for families trying to instill the value of giving to young children overwhelmed by a season of getting:
- Start small when the kids are small. Your young child might be happy to help bake cookies for a friend but end up wanting to keep the gift herself. Plan for this by baking enough cookies to keep and enough cookies to give. Young children need help in learning to share.
- Teach your child that he doesn't need money to give. Help your child make gift certificates good for "one free car wash" or "breakfast in bed" that he can give to others in the family.
- Involve your child in selecting the gift. You may think that donating to cancer research is important, but your child who is an animal lover may be more interested in making sure the dogs at the humane society have an extra treat at the holidays. Help her find a way to give the gift she feels is important.
- Be a role model. Volunteer your family's time at a soup kitchen or senior center. Gather small-size toiletries, such as toothpaste and shampoo, and pack them in decorated gift bags to take to a homeless shelter. Ask your child if he'll help you baby-sit for a neighbor's toddler so she can do her shopping or help you rake the leaves for an elderly friend.
- Personalize giving. It's faster for busy parents to write a check to a charity, but it has little impact on a child who can't see where the money is going or imagine the people who benefit. Delivering canned goods to a food bank is more meaningful than dropping a check in the mail. Your family could "adopt" a needy family through a community organization, choose the gifts and wrap them.
Some ideas for giving the gift of giving:
To find a Toys For Tots donation site near you, check here.
To find a food bank near you, check here.
Just Give allows you to give friends or family a gift certificate where they get to choose how to donate the value of the charity gift card...to fight hunger, advance human rights, protect endangered animals...and more.
Heifer is a great giving organization for children and adults alike. With Heifer, your donation goes to specific seeds or animals that are donated to families facing hunger and poverty, both in the US and world-wide. For example, $20 buys a family a flock of chicks, providing not only a food and income source, but also training on how to nurture and grow the flock. Sit down with your little one and check out the Heifer web site and help her pick out an animal gift for a family with little food...and watch the spark of giving ignite in your child.
What an amazing feeling. It really is better to give than to receive.