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How to make giving just as great as getting

Scribbling Christmas lists and letters to Santa, pining after new toys and electronics and shopping stores packed with holiday trimmings feed our kids’ anticipation for presents.

To kids, Christmas means getting stuff. The commercialization of the holiday is unfortunate, but parents can kindle the true Christmas spirit at home. When kids realize just how fun it is to give, their “I want” attitudes diminish.

Each December, one of my favorite moments is when my kids draw names to give a gift to one of their siblings. The folded strips of paper at the bottom of a bowl, choosing a name and then deciding to keep it a secret (that always backfires) and the kooky alias names they put on the gift labels make giving fun. Drawing names is a simple tradition that strengthens our family relationships and help us focus a little more on giving.

Other activities to help win your children over to the spirit of giving include:

  1. Adopt a family or child in need. Many local organizations seek sponsors or cash donations to provide presents or food for needy families at Christmastime. Try Toys for Tots or the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
  2. Play Secret Santa. My kids relish the opportunity to dress in dark clothes and plan their doorstep approach and getaway. Take part in the “12 days of Christmas” by leaving a small treat or gift on someone’s doorstep in the days leading up to the holiday.
  3. Challenge your kids to give away some of their gently-used toys or a new Christmas toy. Let them take part in both choosing and dropping off the donation.
  4. When they give, ask your kids how they feel. Help them recognize the joy that comes through giving. Help them experience that joy again and again. For many kids, selflessness is a learned trait.
  5. Watch holiday TV shows or movies and read Christmas stories that emphasize the true meaning of the season. Watching shows or reading about the peace and joy derived from giving will help bring that spirit into your home. Enjoy the classics, like “Miracle on 34th Street” or “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
  6. Give your time to a nursing home, soup kitchen or shelter. Volunteering to help at a facility for needy or lonely people will help your children empathize with others. Create a tradition for your family to serve year-round, perhaps on a monthly basis.
  7. When you receive your kids’ Christmas gifts to you, respond with delight. Be generous with your praise when you open the little crafts they create for you. Model how to receive graciously. Your kids will enjoy giving even more when the recipient receives their gifts with gladness.
  8. Display a Nativity set in your house. Ask your kids who each person represents, and talk about the Wise Men and their gifts to the baby Jesus. Emphasize that Christmas is really about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
Open the season of giving by shifting the focus from your child’s Christmas list to a person he can give to. Receiving presents is exciting, but there are many ways to help kids learn to love giving.



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