A lot of parents can relate to hearing, “I want that!” hundreds of times during the holidays. Store displays and television commercials encourage us to consume, consume and consume some more. The pressure to fulfill a child’s wish list takes away from the true meaning and spirit of the holidays. With a little encouragement, a child’s focus can be switched from getting gifts to giving during the holidays.

Talk About Giving & Receiving

While the holiday season brings cheer and bounties of food and treats to many families, not everyone looks forward to or gets to enjoy this season. Many do not have the means nor the opportunity to celebrate like the majority.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than 564,700 people were homeless in 2015. Fifteen percent of that population are chronically homeless.

This holiday season should be different and families can make that difference.

home alone turtle doves
Kevin made the Bird Woman's holidays happier.

Parents can have a light and enthusiastic conversation with their children, whether four years old or 18, to encourage them to think differently during the holidays. There is nothing wrong with receiving gifts, and our children should know that. What they should also know is that gifts are given out of love. The world needs a lot of love right now and being a giver -- of time, money, energy and prayers -- would provide that love.

To raise children to be leaders, they must be developed to be servants. Encouraging children to give will teach them to be generous and respectful of others, despite any differences (i.e. age, gender, and class) there may be. Doing so also builds character, produces modesty and spirit of gratitude, ultimately creating a grateful generation.


15 Ways Your Family Can Give Back

  1. Take a gift or meal to someone who has to work during the holidays, i.e. police officers, firemen, and women, nurses, doctors, etc.
  2. Visit a nursing home and spend time with the residents. Sing carols, make crafts or just sit and converse.
  3. Pack lunches and hand them out to homeless individuals on streets.
  4. Make care packages to send to U.S. soldiers or their families. 
  5. Serve food at a local food pantry or soup kitchen.
  6. Donate clothing to an orphanage.
  7. Ask an elderly neighbor if there is anything you can do to help them (i.e. clean their home, help with yard work, etc.).
  8. Make a monetary donation to an organization that benefits children.
  9. Adopt a family for the holidays and purchase gifts or food for them. 
  10. Volunteer at an animal shelter.
  11. Show your mailperson you appreciate them by leaving them a gift in the mailbox.
  12. Visit a children’s hospital and spend time with children who are not able to be home with family.
  13. Donate unwanted books to a book drive for the underprivileged.
  14. Pay it forward at a grocery store or restaurant by paying for the food or meal of the person or car behind you. 
  15. Start a social media campaign to raise awareness about a charity or cause.

Show them Examples

Peer pressure is best when it is encouraging someone to do good. There are many bright young people who give back to the world through efforts they have started themselves. Share these examples with your children.

Leanne Joyce - After staying in the hospital in 2011 due to complications from a heart condition, Leanne started Positive Impact for Kids. The goal of her nonprofit is to help improve the experience pediatric patients by raising money and awareness to decrease the anxiety of these patients while increasing their self-esteem. 

Khloe Thompson - Khloe is a 9-year old who distributes “Kare Bags” to the homeless women through her organization called Khloe Kares. She has sewn these bags with her grandmother since she was eight years old and now desires to help women all over the world.

Kids Who Volunteer
Leanne Joyce volunteers to boosts self-esteem at local children's hospitals.

Koa Halpern - After seeing how much the exchange student their family was hosting loved fast food, Koa founded Fast Food Free. He researched and discovered how unhealthy fast food is and now wants to make people aware of how unhealthy fast food is challenges people to take a pledge to make better food choices.

Make It A Fun Tradition

Finding ways to give during the holidays can easily be turned into a tradition. As a family, prepare for it all year long by saving money, collecting items from the community, and purging closets and toy bins. The kids can choose a cause or way to give back, which will make them even more interested in participating.

About the All-Star Blogger  

 Teri Watters is the creator of MommyWifeLife.com, where she regularly blogs about ways to keep the family connected through education, activities and new products.