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The Hood Magazine

Teaching Kids How to Give Back During the Holidays

Oct 27, 2014 03:12PM ● By Hood Magazine
By Ashley Sanbord, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center  


For many children, and adults too, Christmas has become centered primarily on an “I want” mentality. Furthermore, it seems like more people every year are falling victim to the commercial side of the holidays, instead of placing emphasis on the true spirit of the holidays, which is to give rather than receive. “During the holidays, we sometimes feel that we are spending money like water. There seems to be no end to our gift buying, no end to ‘one more little stocking stuffer,’ and it’s important to think of what we are teaching our kids when we ‘celebrate’ this way, which is that Christmas is seemingly all about buying,” says Patricia Lindemann, MS, LPC, an outpatient therapist with Avera McKennan Behavioral Health Services. “We can do things to give back, like purchase gifts for programs which benefit children or families who have less. The downside of these activities is we never lay eyes on who we help. There is something precious about seeing the people you are assisting.”

So, what is a good way to teach gratitude as well as the true meaning of Christmas? Easy. Lead by example and encourage your children to volunteer with local organizations and/or charities to give back to those who are less fortunate. Giving kids an opportunity to volunteer during the holiday season, especially with a parent, models lessons they will never forget. “Kids feel self-worth in what they are offering and thankfulness for what they have, they have investment in what is provided, and there is a special bond in working alongside a parent and sharing the experience,” says Lindemann. “Kids who grow up volunteering, especially as a positive family activity, have a good chance of being lifelong volunteers.”

It’s also important to remember that when preparing to do a volunteer activity at a place that is unlike any place your child has ever been, you should be ready to answer any questions. Explain exactly what they will see there if they have any uncertainty. “It’s a good idea to learn the rules of the place you will be volunteering, before you take your family,” notes Lindemann.

Lastly, by encouraging your children to give back this holiday season, it will help them look beyond their own wants and/or needs and spread joy and happiness to families, friends and their community.