December is a month of giving…but many of us parents struggle with the consumerist expectations that surround the holiday season. How do we teach children about the meaning of the holidays—and temper their desire to focus on gifts, when they’ve been surrounded by commercials targeting them for months?
My friend Tara Rubenstein recently wrote about the origins of giving children Christmas gifts in her blog about celebrating the winter solstice: “Giving gifts to children in particular is a gratitude for the light that they bring into the world and the joy that they share with us daily.”
I appreciate Tara’s take—and while I love picking out holiday gifts that my children will love, I’ve found that it’s also important to talk about how fortunate we are and build an awareness that not all children receive the gifts that they ask for. Even better is getting out and doing something together to show that we all have the ability to be generous and share the season’s abundance with others in our community.
Increasingly, families are making community service part of their holiday routine. If you’ll be staying local over winter break, here are a number of ways that you and your family can give back and help others:
Collect items for the kids at CHOP: CHOP’s Child life, education & creative arts therapy program is always in need of donations like Crayola Model Magic, books, video and board games. If your children received money or gift cards for the holidays, invite them to go shopping for some new items to donate.
Have a Sock Party: Invite friends and neighbors over…for a sock party. Radnor-based non-profit “The Joy of Sox” provides socks to people who are homeless across the Greater Philadelphia area. A sock party can be as simple as setting up snacks and a holiday video…and asking guests to bring new men’s, women’s or children’s socks to be donated.
Give back on Christmas Day: For families who don’t celebrate Christmas, December 25th is a wonderful day to do community service. One family-friendly activity is Mitzvah morning at the Kaiserman JCC—families will be making gifts to go to local senior citizens (a quiet room and support from teen helpers is available for kids with special needs). You can also check out for more ways to give.
Clean Your Local Playground: It’s winter—but weather predictions show the week won’t be unusually cold and besides, kids need to get their energy out! Take your family—and/or invite families on your block—to head to your local park/playground for trash pick-up. Here are some safety tips for practicing stewardship with your family.
Make a Plan for MLK Day: While January may feel far away as we look at our December to-do lists, it will be here before we know it. While many schools and faith communities plan service projects on MLK Day, more organizations are planning events through MLK weekend. Take a look at the MLK Day of service website and search for projects near you. Talk to your kids about different choices for giving back.
Gratitude, appreciation of our gifts and taking responsibility for giving to others are real values that we can give to our children—by modeling them as a family, in December and through the year.