Teaching Kids Empathy

My most recent newsletter may be of interest to you. I know you will have material for articles and interviews about the holidays; about the excitement, about new toys and gimmicks. But many parents in my groups and workshops express concern about the ‘gimmes’ that their kids seem to develop around this time of year. Christmas is, as they say, for children but should it be all about what they get? Or, do we want our children to learn about the joy of giving as well as the fun of receiving.

So, I actually have two short articles for you. The first is, just below these comments and if you are interested in more information there is a link to another recently published article.

But first a short word from World Vision on this topic.

Looking to profile a fun, thoughtful holiday gift that gets children thinking about others? Check out www.worldvision.ca/gifts. For more information on World Vision Gifts, or to book an interview with Kathy Lynn about teaching your children to care for others over the holiday season (World Vision Gifts is just one of many ways to do this), contact Genevieve Barber – genevieve_barber@worldvision.ca or 416.671.0086. You can also check out the online newsroom at www.worldvision.ca/gcnewsroom.”

Helping Kids Learn about Giving, not just Receiving

 We want our kids to care. We want them to care about others, about those in need. But it seems a daunting task, particularly at Christmas time. We say that Christmas is for children, and it is. But we are seeing kids who understand the part about giving but not the part about receiving.

Does it seem that every time you turn around your children are asking for more and bigger gifts? The list just seems to explode until you are in a blind panic trying to figure out how to get your little darlings everything they want for Christmas.

You shouldn’t be surprised. Christmas toy advertising starts to rev up after Halloween so your children are being constantly exposed to the latest, greatest, must-have toys and games.

While there are a number of things you can do to reduce your children’s acquisitive nature the simplest (but for many, most difficult) way to handle the problem is to learn to use just one little word. No. He doesn’t need all that stuff.

Her life won’t be ruined if she doesn’t always have the latest, newest and greatest thing. In fact, her life is more likely to be ruined in the long run if she does get everything she wants exactly when she wants it.

When we teach our children to sometimes go without, we are doing them a favour. This will not make you at all popular but parenting is not a popularity contest. It’s your job to sometimes say no and live with that but not give in to your unhappy child.

Help him learn how to set priorities. If he could only have one of the many things on his list what would it be? Why? Ask why so you can work with him to figure out if he’s being bamboozled by advertising or if it’s something he would really use and like.

Getting involved in some level of charitable giving is also helpful.

One fun, helpful and valuable way to have kids get involved in charitable giving is to visit worlvision.ca/gifts. Have your kids choose a gift for their Dad, their grandparents or other relatives. They will clearly see that for some kids access to clean water and food is what they need. The beauty of this is that the kids find it fun, (I bought my grandma a goat!), they can imagine what they bought and develop empathy about the plight of the needy child and they are thinking beyond just the latest toy or game.

Have your kids buy a toy for a needy kid and take it to the food bank or a toy drive. Or, if they have lots of toys that have barely been played with, do the same thing. Let them choose some foods to donate to Christmas hampers.

When it comes to advertising, teach your kids to be savvy viewers. Watch toy commercials with them and make a game out of trying to determine how they made that toy look so good? Do they think it’s really that big? What about batteries? Does it need batteries and how can kids afford to pay for them? Once kids are seven or eight they love the game of figuring out what the advertising is doing to make things look so good. You can even take them to the toy store to look at the toy and see how the reality is sometimes quite different from the ad.

Involve your children in gift purchases. They should use some of their own money to buy gifts for their parents and siblings. When they only receive and never give, they miss half the joy of the gift exchange. When my children were young, each year we all headed off one Saturday morning in December so our children could buy gifts for their parents. (Hint: downtown is pretty quiet until noon, even in December). I took one child and John took the other. Then we traded so each child could buy for their parents and keep it a secret. And one rule was; the child got to choose the gift. So we got some strange and unusual offerings but we received them from our kids who were so proud of their purchases. We truly modelled, ‘it’s the thought that counts.’

If you want to read more about how using the world vision catalogue will help your child develop empathy, take a look at this article

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