Teach a Child to Give

Giving is a behavior that children learn from parents and role models. Giving gifts is one of the traditions built into our winter holidays. Some give toys, clothes and games to their kids. Some give their kids money. There are some other opportunities in this season that might be good to think about.

We can certainly give our kids some of the things they want and will enjoy. We could also add an amount of money that will be given to charities and involve the youngsters in making the decision about where to donate it. You might even let them deliver the check or enter the credit card information on a website and be directly involved in the transaction. Or it could be as simple as handing them change or currency at the grocery store to put in the familiar red buckets of the Salvation Army.

We could also look for that volunteer opportunity at a church or a community charity that delivers gifts to others. We could help prepare a meal shared with others who would not have it otherwise. We could go shopping for toys with our kids that they will turn around and donate to a holiday program that gives toys to kids not getting a holiday gift.

javelinaZoos, museums, nature centers, aquariums, and historic sites can create a holiday program that invites young people to contribute small items or small amounts of money. The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum has a bronze javelina piggy bank on the entry plaza to their facilities, an obvious way to get kids to ask mom and dad for coins to drop into this familiar savings icon. Think about what you might do around these holidays so heavily built on gifts that shift the message from “What do I get?” to “What can I give?”

Recent events at a school in Connecticut and a theater in Colorado remind us of how fragile life is. Young people are barraged with messages that are all about getting more things. Many of us actually do not need more things as much as we need to reconnect with the value of helping others. In this holiday season, perhaps we can all look for that chance to help someone else. The gift we receive is one of understanding that the best “things” in life are not “things.”

Family, love, and sharing special moments with our children or friends is a gift. We transcend the meaning of giving ourselves when we teach our children to give. They will have a greater appreciation for and understanding of what is really important in life if they learn to give of themselves. And it could start this holiday season.

Happy Holidays to all of you. We hope you have a chance to give something special to your children, the gift of giving. It’s a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Lisa Brochu and Tim Merriman

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