I am always struck by the irony of Thanksgiving, the holiday of giving thanks, being followed so closely by the winter holidays—Christmas and Chanukah—the holidays of gimme gimme gimme.
Our children are taught the Thanksgiving story—the horror of the true story somewhat p.c.-ified (made politically correct) to reflect the supposed kindness of the Native Americans to the Pilgrims. They are asked to consider all of that for which they are grateful. They participate in canned food and gently used clothing drives. And generally, a pretty good job is done of framing Thanksgiving to be about giving thanks and thinking of others.
The very next day, up go the Christmas lights, a chorus of Deck the Halls fills the airways, store shelves are lined with objects of children’s desires. And in the case of Chanukah, this year in particular, within hours the holiday begins. So much for our gratitude for our bounty and our focus on giving. The season of gimme gimme gimme has begun.
It doesn’t have to be so. As parents and the captains of your family ship, it is within your power to reframe your holiday observance to continue the giving atttitude you cultivated at Thanksgiving. And now is the time to begin.
- As your child is building his “ gimME list,” help him to create a parallel “give YOU list” of people to whom he wants to give something. That list should include people to whom he is grateful for any number of reasons—the crossing guard, the produce man, his teacher, his neighbor he greets each day.
- Set aside special times when the whole family participates in making a “family gift.” Maybe it’s cranberry bread or popcorn balls or pretzel sticks dipped in chocolate. And your child gets to give that gift to all the people on his own list.
- Allow your child to help you in the giving activities. Even the youngest children can affix stamps to holiday cards or sponge them closed. Children love to help wrap gifts (the lure of a roll of tape!). Set aside your perfectionistic habits, and let him put on the paper, cockeyed though it may look!
- Consider making a gift to your child be a gift that he gives to help someone else. Allow him to learn what a gift it is to be able to help, really help someone else. Do you know that he can buy a cow which will support a whole family? Below are listed websites through which you can give real things, necessities, that help people to live. You will be amazed at how exciting it is for a child to know the difference his gift is making in someone else’s life. Then watch the holiday take on a whole new meaning.
- Share with your child the joy you feel in giving to others. Your enthusiasm will be contagious.