The Thanksgiving turkey (or ham) has been consumed. Gray Thursday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have all come and gone. Yesterday I got an email from one of my favorite charities touting the day as “Giving Tuesday.” The constant whirr of the media machine can sometimes numb us to the many reasons this time of year can be special….albeit stressful, still special. If you are contemplating, living through or just completing relocating your family to a new home, the season becomes even more stressful and some of that “specialness” fades into the distant background of packing or unpacking boxes and rearranging furniture.
For most of us Thanksgiving ushers in the ensuing shopping frenzy in preparation for our “joyous” celebration of the Holiday Season. At its very deepest core, the Holiday Season is about generosity and the old adage “it’s better to give than receive” rings true. As parents we strive to instill the value of giving and generosity in our families.
Just like anything we wish to accomplish, we are most successful when our goals come with a plan – a set of action steps that give us the best possible chance of arriving at our destination happy, fulfilled and ready for the next challenge. In the midst of creating a new normal, how can we create a sense of generosity when our children may be focused on all they’ve “lost” rather than what they might be grateful for. If your goal is to create a spirit of giving and generosity in your home, here are some things you can do to stay on track to reach your goal.
Connect the dots
Let’s be realistic. Giving isn’t a natural instinct for most of us. We’re hunters and gatherers, not hunters and givers. In fact, from a brain development standpoint, our kids aren’t quite in the “right mind” to practice generosity on a regular basis. Their sense of empathy, putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, isn’t fully developed yet. Generosity isn’t as much something we instill in our kids as it is something we immerse them in.
Don’t try to teach generosity in one sitting, or a select few events. Conversations and actions over time will connect the dots for kids. Consider picking a charity or cause as a family and then developing a plan for how every member in your family will contribute to that charity or cause throughout the upcoming year.
Find (or create) teachable moments and have conversations about giving and generosity over the span of time. Be sure to create awareness of the variety of ways people are generous - time, gently used or new donations, fundraising in your neighborhood or community, or sponsorship. There’s more than money to generosity.
Give them money
What?? Didn’t you just say there’s more than money to generosity?? Yes, yes I did but hear me out. Good money management skills are essential to teaching about generosity and giving. If they don’t learn to save and budget, how will they ever learn how to give? When children receive money for chores, holidays or birthdays, help them determine how much to save, to spend and to give. A habit of planning for giving creates a habit of generosity.
Change the focus
Start the Holiday Season with the “Giving List” rather than a “Wish List” or “Santa Letter”. Have kids identify what they would like to give this Holiday Season. Again, coach your kids see beyond the dollar signs. Grandparents (and most adult family members) love gifts from the heart. Helping with a project or agreeing to shovel snow or rake leaves might be the perfect gift. Not only will your child learn the value of giving of themselves, but will also get an opportunity to spend time with a family member.
Focus on helping as a foundation for teaching generosity. Have children identify ways they can help siblings, parents, neighbors, teachers and friends. Set aside one day each month as “Helping Day” and guide kids to plan in advance who they will help and how. The helping can happen with the walls of your house or move beyond to your extended family, neighborhood or school.
Focus on abundance to help kids realize there is enough to go around. Giving doesn’t mean children have to go without. Having open conversations with your family about want vs. need, prioritizing time, actions, and items and identifying goals for the upcoming year can help drive home the abundance in your children’s lives. Prioritizing and goal setting lead to effective decision making in our lives which allows us to make time, and even create time, for the things that get us closer to our goals. If our goal is to instill the character trait of generosity, we must prioritize our actions and create time and opportunity for our kids to catch the generosity “fever” from us.
Role modeling is powerful so remember to show generosity as much as, if not more than, you preach generosity. And always remember we have a lot to learn from our kids as well. Click here to read about how 3-year-old Ralph taught his parents a lesson in generosity.
No parent should move without a game plan.
For more information about the Moving Families Initiative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.