While I try to be thankful all year, I find myself feeling especially grateful around this time of year. Yes, Thanksgiving was just here, but for me it’s the fact that, as the weather gets colder, I have a warm, sturdy house, plenty of clothing, and more than enough food to eat. I’m even grateful for the mess in my daughters’ rooms or the things around the house that I have to clean up because it means that we have things. True, too many things, but still plenty of things to be grateful for in my life.
My husband and I try to promote a sense of gratefulness and responsibility in our children by helping others who are less fortunate. Here are three ways you can involve your children in helping others.
Pick a tag off of a Giving Tree (or Angel Tree) and have your child help shop for a present and talk about the child you are shopping for. Help your child understand that this child might not get any toys/clothing if you did not help out. Explain that this child is loved very much by his/her parent, but the parent most likely does not have enough money for fun things or things above and beyond the necessities.
Adopt a family from a homeless shelter or check with your child’s school to see if there is a family you could help. Please note that there will likely be a need for confidentiality. Families in need do not typically want to be recognized or noticed. Even though your family might provide for the same adopted family all year, the shelter or school contact might not share anything other than age, gender and sizes. It is important that if you or your child figures out who this family is, that you don’t call it to their attention.
When we pulled names off a gift tree one year, my daughter figured out that she knew two of the children. We discussed confidentiality, how lucky we were to be able to help and how nice it was that she had insight into what these children might need and want throughout the year. Of course, you, the parent, need to determine if this is something your child understands and can handle. Some children would find it hard to keep that knowledge secret, especially over an extended period of time.
Donate. You can give your child a specific amount of money to donate and help him decide which organization he wants to donate to this year. Or, another thought is that you could match the amount he chooses to donate of his own money (from allowance, extra chores, gift money, etc.). This might not be a large amount of money, but even a handful of coins helps!
Donating clothing or toys is a great excuse to get your child to clear our closets and storage space for any new clothes/toys that she might receive this year. If possible, bring your child with you to the drop off location and have them carry their items in– often the people receiving the items will make a big deal out of the donation if you (or your child) mention that your child cleaned out her closet to be able to help those less fortunate.
These three ideas are great for children of any age. Even if you have an itty bitty child, begin a new tradition and talk to your child every step of the way. Each year he will understand a little more and the act of helping others will become a ‘fact of life’ in his world, maybe even something he eagerly anticipates each year and will share with his children.