Shifting the Holiday Mindset: From the "Gets" to the "Gives"

November 6, 2019 | by sara beth wald
The season of giving and getting is officially upon us.

It starts with Halloween, when all it takes to get a big bag of candy is to canvass the neighborhood dressed as your favorite character. The kids make a good-natured threat – “Trick or treat!” – and voilà! They’ve earned a piece of candy.

The sugar rush of Halloween is followed by the gluttony of Thanksgiving in November and a mountain of Christmas gifts in December.

Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are loads of fun, but if parents aren’t careful, kids can get the impression that the holidays are an onslaught of “gets,” with very little giving in return.

There is no better way to teach children the value and joy of giving than to participate with their parents in acts of kindness.

Giving isn’t just about writing a check at the end of the year as a tax write off (although as a former social worker in the non-profit sector, I can assure you those donations really do help!).

Kids learn by watching and doing.

Instilling a giving heart in a child involves action. There are so many ways a family can give that don’t cost anything except their time and attention.

  • Organizations like rescue missions, the Salvation Army, and Meals on Wheels are always in need of people to prepare, serve, or deliver food.
  • Help build a house for Habitat for Humanity, participate in a fun-run for charity, or sponsor a family in need to provide a Thanksgiving meal or a Christmas to remember.
  • Most churches have a community service mission that provides ample volunteer opportunities throughout the year.
  • There’s no reason to wait until the holidays to give. Non-profit organizations are often inundated with extra help and donations in November and December, but they struggle to find help the rest of the year.

There are opportunities to help others all around us, every day.

  • Is the elderly neighbor across the street alone on Christmas? Invite him to join your holiday meal.
  • Does a child in your son’s class stand shivering in a light jacket at after-school pickup? Bring him a coat!
  • While walking to the park, do you notice the leaves piling up in the yard of the woman who always waves you over to talk about her husband who passed away last year? Bring the kids and some rakes and garbage bags and get to work!
  • When shoveling the sidewalk, don’t stop at your property line. Do your neighbor’s too.
  • Make homemade ornaments with your kids, wrap them up, and deliver them as gifts to a local nursing home.
  • Older kids can read to nursing home residents, younger kids can sing songs.
  • Often homeless and domestic violence shelters are in need of toiletries such as shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and toilet paper. And basics like warm socks, gloves, or blankets. Take the kids to the store and go on a “shopping spree,” and deliver your goodies to a local shelter.
  • Shopping carts scattered all over the parking lot? Enlist your older kids to help put them in their rightful place.

This holiday season, make a family commitment to giving all year long.

Let the kids choose a charity to donate a portion of their allowance, or plan on doing one activity per month together that gives back to the community.

And most importantly, make giving fun! Create a tradition of giving that your kids will pass on to future generations.

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