Now that the holiday season is upon us, it's a terrific opportunity to teach our kids the importance of giving. In my family, we played a version of Secret Santa by putting our extended family members' names in a hat. Then, we would each draw a name and discuss what we could give that person. We would usually do this on Thanksgiving Day, after our big meal, to kick off the holidays. It was fun to think about what would make the other person happy.
Gift giving creates a happy feeling not just for the receiver but also for the giver. A recent study found that children are, in fact, happier when they give than when they receive. In the experiment, the researchers interacted with children using puppets that would make "yum" noises when given treats. Surprisingly, the researchers found that children were happier when giving treats to the puppets, than when receiving treats for themselves.
Sharing and giving are an essential part of social-emotional development, and the holiday season is the perfect opportunity to help your child develop these important skills. Here are five fun things that you can do at home to get into the spirit of giving:
1. Encourage Creative Thinking
Ask your children how they would like to give back this season. You may be surprised at what they come up with. Following through on their ideas will help build their confidence and commitment to the activity.
2. Begin at Home
Make a "Giving Book" with your child. Think of five things she would enjoy doing for someone at home or for a neighbor or relative. Write or draw these activities on index cards, decorate the cards and staple them together. This is a gift that keeps on giving and extends the joy and learning beyond the holidays.
3. Adopt a Family
Many organizations have programs where your family can help a family in need over the holidays. Have your family plan together what you will buy or make. This can include making cards with your child, selecting the gifts, wrapping them, etc. Talk about how the adopted family will feel and how your child feels during this activity.
4. Go Beyond Money
Donating part of an allowance is a great way to teach your child the importance of sharing. However, it's also important to go beyond the money and teach additional ways people can give. Donating time and effort is just as important. Your child could make artwork for a local children's hospital, or help plant trees for a nature reserve. Whatever your child's passion, link it to giving back, which will help him or her enjoy it even more.
5. Talk about Emotions
After your child spends time giving back, ask him how he feels. Most likely he will have a strong positive response. Help him make the connection of that good feeling to giving back. This will encourage your child to repeat the experience.
How does your family give back? Share with us on Facebook. We'd love to hear thoughts and ideas.