Help Your Kids Make Christmas a Time for Caring

Hi,

I celebrate Christmas and I love the holiday. One of the parts l like best is spending time with family. And there is usually a bonus when family members come to visit. Last year my brother and sister-in-law joined us. This year we will have a usual visit from my son’s in-laws and my daughter’s sister-in law. That’s the out-of-towners.  The rest of us enjoy having time to be together.

I hope you get the holiday you want this year.

Christmas, a Time for Caring

 A recent Harvard study found that four out of five children say that personal success and happiness are more important to them than “caring for others.” This, while nearly all (96 percent) of parents surveyed reported that developing their child’s character is important.

What’s going on? The study suggests that the real messages parents convey to kids, by their behaviour is that although they talk about the importance of caring for others, they are actually more concerned with achievement.

As we enter the busy holiday and gift-giving season, perhaps now is the time for families – and your readers – to educate their children on the vast personal rewards that come from caring about others.

Family matters. Friends matter. Putting yourself first may sometimes matter but not at the cost of losing the people who are important in your life. It requires balance.

So, in practical terms what does that mean in your family? The obvious answer is to give back to the community. Donate to the food bank and let your kids know about it.

But, today, I want to focus on the closer to home realities. A lot of how we can help our kids learn to care about more than just themselves and their list comes down to old-fashioned manners.

You will be welcoming guests into your home and your children should be part of this activity. Even the very young children need to learn how to say hello. If they are shy, they can hold your hand while they do it, but greeting folks is important.

Good manners include a gracious acceptance of gifts. Teach them to receive all gifts as if they were special and wonderful, even if it’s something that’s wildly inappropriate. ‘It’s the thought that counts,’ sounds hokey, but it is true. They need to learn to thank people in person when they receive a gift. They learn this by watching you. How do you respond when you’re given a gift?

They also learn by being told. Practice with them before they attend any event where they are likely to receive gifts. Ask them: “What will you say to Aunty Hilda when she gives you a present?” Explain that it’s not whether they like the gift but recognizing that their aunt cares enough to bring them something so they are thanking her for her consideration and love.

When gifts come by mail from friends and relatives, I believe that an old-fashioned thank-you letter is important. I’d suggest that you schedule a time when all the members of the household write their letters. If you sit down with your children, it’s a family event and easier for everyone. Don’t engage in any arguments, simply state that you expect them to write. Say something like, “It’s  letter-writing time. I have a list of the people who sent gifts and what they sent, so let’s get to it.” If you really can’t face the idea of regular mail, at least have the kids send a timely email.

You can help them by suggesting things they might talk about. Out-of-town relatives are interested in all aspects of the kid’s life so talking about the school Christmas party or a planned skating outing with friends will be a hit.

Plan to take pictures of your daughter with the gift.  It’s a real bonus to include them or if she received money, she can tell them what she’s planning on buying.

Children who are too young to write can draw pictures. Have them draw a Christmas picture or one of them playing with the gift. Of course, the really small kids will offer multi-coloured squiggles and lines and I guarantee their art will take a place of honour on the fridge of the recipient.

Good manners are a gift that will help your children throughout their lives.

Have a wonderful holiday. Look after yourself and look after the others in your life.

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