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How to Teach Your Kids to Give During the Holidays

Whether you give financially or give the gift of your time and energy, we’ve put together a list of volunteer and giving ideas that the whole family can be involved in. These ideas can also help you jumpstart conversations with your children about those in need.In the past three weeks, the following scene has played out in my house approximately 125 times:

As I’m busy completing one of the 1,844 chores I do each day, I hear one of my kids yell, “MOM! MOM!! COME HERE, HURRY!” I sprint into the living room, sure I’m about to find someone beaten or bloodied. “WHAT’S WRONG??” I yell ask.

As I careen around the corner, I see one of my darling children pointing at the television, saying, “Look at this commercial. I REALLY, REALLY WANT THIS. Can I get it? I HAVE to have it. It’s SO COOL.”

I catch my breath, scream at the top of my lungs calmly ask them to stop screaming bloody murder when there isn’t an emergency, and tell them to put it on their list for Santa. Each time this happens, I’m reminded that as the holiday commercials begin to dominate every commercial break, my kids get farther and farther away from understanding the true meaning of Christmas.

This year, my kids are seven and four. They’re definitely old enough to understand that they’re incredibly lucky and some children won’t even wake up to enough food on Christmas morning, let alone a pile of presents. I want them to know that there is plenty that we, as a family, can do to help others during the holiday season.

Whether you give financially or give the gift of your time and energy, we’ve put together a list of volunteer and giving ideas that can help you jumpstart conversations with children about those in need.

Clean Out Closets

Clearing out closets and storage areas before Christmas not only makes room for new gifts, but also allows your family to help families in need. Contact a local homeless, youth, or domestic violence shelter in your area and ask them what they need; clothes, food, or household items can all be used to help run the shelter and also to help those moving out of the shelters establish their homes.

Gently used toys can also be given to parents in need so their children will have gifts to open on Christmas morning. Have your kids go through their own closets and set aside gently used toys to donate, then contact your local church group or organizations such as Families First and the Salvation Army to find a family in need.

The Gift of Time

If your family doesn’t have money to give, the gift of your time is just as important. This is a great way to involve children, allowing them to see the people they are helping. Soup kitchens and food pantries need help serving meals, particularly on Thanksgiving. Volunteers can serve the food, pack bags of food, or simply organize inventory. Visit to find a local organization. Also, many nursing home residents or hospital patients don’t get many visitors and the holidays can be particularly lonely. A simple visit or a group singing Christmas carols would definitely brighten their holiday season. Contact local nursing homes or hospitals to ask about visiting.

Financial Gifts

Non-profit organizations always need and appreciate money and new items. The holidays provide ample opportunity for your family to give, if you can. You can give directly to your church or your favorite charity. There are also holiday events such as Toys for Tots, where you buy a new toy for a child in need or you can give money to the Salvation Army bell ringers. Finally, troops stationed overseas away from their families will be cheered by a package or card. Visit Adopt a Soldier to adopt a soldier for Christmas. Talk to your children about how they can save, give, and spend some of their money or time and how you and/or your partner can do the same too.

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