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Turn Your Kids Into Givers This Holiday Season

Child offering gift

​​It's the most wonderful time of the year! Heart warming television specials depict families gathered together to share traditions and make memories - in a perfect world.

Meanwhile, back in reality, the holidays often find moms and dads tired and in debt. Kids, under the spell of advertisers, transform into little (or not-so-little) surly beasts who want everything they see.

How can you restore peace to your family so everyone can enjoy the holiday season? Foster gratitude and a spirit of giving in your children. Grateful and giving kids are much happier than grasping and envious ones. It's never too early or too late to cultivate thankful hearts in our kids. To get started, here are some practical tips:

Make gratitude a core value of your family life. Take time to stop and count your blessings. When your children receive a gift, teach them to pause and savor the moment. Focus on the generosity and kindness of the giver and talk about how the child will benefit from the gift, rather than how much the item cost or what it looks like. Insist that your child thank the giver verbally and make sure your kids write thank you notes.

Help your children make a list of gifts they are going to give. Contain the "gimme syndrome" by putting limits on the number of items kids can put on their holiday wish lists and how often they can add to or change the lists. Then, turn their attention (and yours) to concentrating on gifts they want to give to others. Encourage your kids to create homemade gifts as well as give gifts of service (reading to a sibling, spending time helping grandparents with household chores).

When your child gets something, have him or her give something away. Before the holiday season and gift-giving get too far underway, require that your children (and apply the same principle to yourself!) select gently used toys and clothes to donate to others. Remind your children that people are in need every day.

Involve your children in volunteer and service activity. Look for opportunities to engage in community service as a family. Many churches and other organizations sponsor "giving trees" during the holidays. Involve your children in choosing, wrapping, and delivering the items you will donate. Afterwards, take time to discuss with your children what they learned from their experience. Ask them to come up with additional ideas for service to others.

Remember, although you can't control the larger cultural environment, you can give your children the gift of joy and gratitude this holiday season.