How to Balance Receiving with Giving
By Sandi Schwartz
One of the key challenges of holiday time is that our children get so used to receiving oodles of gifts that they begin to expect that they will always get more and more. But have you noticed how quickly they lose interest with many of the toys they receive during the holidays? Showering our children with gifts every year can end up being detrimental if they become numb to the excitement of gifts, and if they only focus on the receiving side of the holidays. There are several ways that we can instill some balance so that our children learn to appreciate what they receive while also giving to others.
Gratitude is one of the best ways for us to get a happiness boost. Teaching our kids how to step back and be thankful for what they have will keep them grounded and help them realize just how blessed they are to be receiving gifts at holiday time.
Encourage your kids to express gratitude by writing thank you notes to friends and relatives. You can also go around the dinner table and invite everyone to say how grateful they are for each gift and why it is so meaningful to them. Laura Mullen, mom of three, says: “We encourage our kids to express gratitude through journaling. This helps them acknowledge the positive moments every day, no matter how insignificant they may seem.” A journal is a great gift to find under the Christmas tree, by the way.
Learn That Less Is More
How many dolls does one little girl really need? If you dig through your children’s old toys, you may be surprised by how many of each item they actually have: multiple puzzles, games, cars, trucks, plastic figures, and art supplies. It never ends. When they are showered with too many presents, it reduces the interest value of each toy very quickly. According to Kim John Payne in “Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids”, children who are inundated with toys are so overwhelmed that they are unable to play by themselves and can even develop focus issues.
It is so important to teach our children how to pick and choose a few special gifts that they would like and to not go overboard.
Parenting coach Carla Naumburg reminds us of a fabulous poem to inspire the types of presents to give to children. This approach goes beyond just the obvious toys that children typically want, allowing both parents and children to be more creative with gifts:
Something you want, something you need,
Something to wear, something to read.
Something to see, something to spare,
Something to cook, something to share.
Choose Experiences Over Things
Experiences make us happier than possessions do. Instead of always giving our kids gifts they can hold in their hands, why not try a new experience that will provide them with memories for a lifetime? It doesn’t have to be an expensive family vacation to Disney World. It can be a simple activity close by that you can enjoy together. Here are some ideas that your kids will love: visiting a zoo or garden, going camping or hiking, spending a day at the beach, trying out skiing or snowboarding, exploring the city by visiting historical monuments or museums, going out to a nice restaurant, attending a concert or sporting event, getting signed up for an art class, cooking class, music lessons or a science event.
Share the Joy
The holiday season can quickly turn into a shopping spree if we are not careful. But this is a particularly critical time to remember those who are not able to celebrate the holidays with piles of gifts. December is the perfect time to clean out the playroom and practice giving. Ask your children to collect items in good condition to donate, recycle and throw away the rest. When choosing from their own toys, children gain a powerful hands-on experience to learn about the important balance of giving and receiving. This is a habit that everyone can easily add to their holiday traditions.
You can also encourage children to forgo a new gift or two to purchase items for orphans or children from poor families. Look for a holiday toy drive in your community. Put together a box of necessities and goodies for a child in need in another country. Find out about the nearest Operation Christmas Child drop-off location in your neighborhood.
Hope you have a happy season of joyful giving and receiving.
Sandi Schwartz is a freelance writer/blogger and mother of two. She has written extensively about parenting, wellness, and environmental issues. You can find her at www.happysciencemom.com and www.sandischwartz.com.