If your children have developed a case of the "gimmes," you're not alone. According to Ken Haller, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University, many children (and parents) become so focused on wish lists that they forget the giving spirit of Christmas.
"From a developmental standpoint, it's very important for children to develop some sense of the needs of others if they are going to be successful in the world and relate well to other children and adults in society," says Haller, a SLUCare pediatrician.
"It's important for them to develop empathy and realize that the gifts they have received are best appreciated when they are shared with others."
Giving should become a normal part of the way a family operates, not just an add-on during the holiday season, Haller says. Here are a few of his recommendations to help make charity tangible:
- Look for opportunities to give. Participate in canned food drives, collections for holiday toys and warm clothing/blanket drives at school and other places in the community. If your church, synagogue or mosque has service projects, encourage your child to join in.
- Make sure your child sees you giving. Parents should model the behavior they want to see in their children.
- Use allowance time as a teachable moment. When you start paying allowance, give your child three containers labeled "spend," "save" and "share." When you pay allowance, give it to your child in small bills or coins and tell him or her to put some money in each jar. That way he or she has spending money for treats now, saves for something bigger tomorrow and shares with those who are less fortunate.