The festive season is an exciting time for many lucky children – it’s filled with decorations, concerts, parties, and of course, the presents they receive from others. While all this adds up to a magical time, it’s also an excellent opportunity for them to learn about the gift of giving – especially to those who have less than them. The act of giving back helps children develop compassion and empathy. With this in mind, we asked parents how they encourage generosity in their children during the festive season. Here are five ideas:
1. Have them donate gifts they receive. Mom of two, Lynn Rushton, has a family tradition
where her boys choose one Christmas gift that they receive to pass on to another child who
would appreciate it more, such as the orphans in the children’s home Lynn works with. The
key difference is that kids are encouraged to give brand new gifts, as opposed to donating
something used. “As well as teaching them generosity of spirit, it also reduces their excess of toys – so they can more appreciate the things they do have,” says Lynn. Natasha Stone does something similar, skipping birthday presents for her sons every second year, and rather asking friends and family to donate gifts to underprivileged kids at the Ebenezer Nursery School in Orange Farm.
2. Spot the everyday opportunities. Giving back doesn’t only need to be limited to this time of year. Teach your children to think of others in ordinary times too: if you’re grocery shopping with your kids, you could buy extra toiletries or non-perishable items that you could then donate. Brands often hold their own charity drives within supermarkets, too, such as the Clover Krush project. If you choose to buy Krush products while you shop at your local supermarket, you’ll be playing your part in contributing toward 20 000 pairs of school shoes, going to children in need in 2020.
3. Teach them that it’s not about spending. Giving a Christmas gift to someone else doesn’t
always need to be a huge expense: in fact, a handmade gift can be far more meaningful to
loved ones than buying something off the shelf. Cape Town mom Belinda Mountain tries to
teach her son and daughter this each Christmas, encouraging them to make gifts for family
themselves. “I want to teach my kids the joy in giving gifts, not only receiving them, which
doesn’t have to mean mass consumerism and always hitting the shops,” she says. “So, they’ll craft things like bookmarks, or bake a jar of cookies – it’s about the thought that went into the gift, not what you spent.”
4. Get them involved with charities. Working with charities or community initiatives isn’t just for adults – there are plenty of opportunities for kids to get involved too. The hugely popular Santa’s Shoebox initiative collects gifts in decorated shoeboxes to give to underprivileged kids around South Africa. Your children can help you shop for the items, and then pack and decorate the box themselves with wrapping paper, paint and stickers.
5. It’s not just about material goods. Giving a gift doesn’t necessarily need to involve money or material things – quality time can be an incredible gift to people who are lonely over the festive season. For example, if your children are visiting their grandparents in an old age home over Christmas or Hanukkah, you could encourage them to spend time with others in the home who may not have family in their lives. Nicola Morgan-Fizelle’s son sings in their school choir, and each Christmas they visit a local old age home where they sing carols for their elderly audience. “Most of them are in tears while they listening to the boys sing,” she says.
The festive season is a wonderfully exciting time for your children – but it’s also a great opportunity to teach them to think beyond themselves and their own needs. Instilling compassion in your kids when they are young will go a long way to raising kind, thoughtful adults, in a world that so desperately needs them.