During the holidays, do your kids give as much as they receive? Regardless of financial circumstance, it's important for kids to understand that while getting is cool and fun, giving is important, too.
During the holidays, do your kids give as much as they receive? I hope so!
Regardless of financial circumstance, it's important for kids to understand that while getting is cool and fun, giving is important, too; perhaps even more important. They need to understand that gift-giving is not a one-way road but a two-way street.
How do they learn this? They learn this from us, in our homes.
All too often, families fall into the trap of gift-giving to kids from the time they are incredibly small, without tossing in lessons of giving back along the way. Before they know it, their kids are teens and don't understand the value of giving gifts to friends, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Similarly, do your kids just say "thanks" when they get a gift, or do they also write a little note to the person afterward? That used to be the norm when we were all kids. With e-mail and Facebook and texting, it's even easier today than it was for us when we had to sit at the table and write out many, many such notes and plop them in the mail. It's truly a lost art, but one easily resurrected and a good one to add to our early resolution list for 2011.
So, this holiday season, I propose we all help our kids with two very important and almost lost skills in this generation:
USaying "thank you"
Gifts don't have to cost a dime. They can be handmade, even baked. What's important is the concept of taking the time to be thoughtful and give a meaningful gift to the important people in their lives during the holidays... people who are the typical players in their gift-giving lives.
To all these people, they should be ready to send some sort of thanks. If they are high-tech, perhaps they can create an e-card and email it out or post one on Facebook. They could take a picture of themselves with their new gift as a way of saying "thanks," too.
Finally, take stock of your own family's gift-giving traditions. Make sure you have something along the lines of "everyone who gets must give" policy. To help kids earn money to give real gifts, have them do special chores around the house and help with holiday events like a holiday "job." This way they understand the value of working for the money they use to buy the gifts and are not just being handed cash.
The holidays and gift-giving can be a wonderful holiday event for families, but keep it realistic with expectations, money spent and make sure the ultimate lesson is that it's better to give than to receive. That's how we truly raise compassionate, loving and giving kids who become amazingly giving adults someday.
According to an Arab proverb, "If you have much, give of your wealth; If you have little, give of your heart."
We live in a time where many people have much and some people have little in terms of financial resources, and we can't guarantee what our children's lives will be like down the road financially. But, if we help them understand that the true gifts are not material, they will never be disappointed with what life has to offer, whether at a gift-giving time or any other time of the year.
Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, M.D., F.A.A.P., is a pediatrician and mother of two. A graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine, Dr. O'Keeffe completed her residency training at New England Medical Center. Dr. O'Keeffe is founder and CEO of Pediatrics Now, www.pediatricsnow.com, and can be reached at email@example.com.