If you're in the throes of holiday shopping and all caught up in what to get for your friends, family, teachers, then allow me to put up a red light. What do your really need that you don't already have?
I was listening to a local radio station (Jeff and Jerr for you local San Diegans). Every year they do something called "breaking and entering Christmas". They choose a family that is struggling and they "break in" to their house and give them everything they need. This year, the winner was chosen based on a letter written by a 5th grade teacher. One of her students lives in a shack, along with his parents, siblings, cousins and grandmother. They sleep on blankets on the floor all snuggled together. The boy often wears damp clothes to school. Yet he never complains. When the class wrote letters to Santa, he asked for a heater for his grandmother, a bed for his family and toys for his cousins. Nothing for himself.
When I listened to this story I couldn't help but cry. They replayed the story and the second time, I had my 7 year-old son listen with me. I could see by the look on his face that the story really touched him. This little boy could easily go to my son's school. My family is so fortunate. We have everything we really need. Sure I would like some extra things for myself and my children will get some fun toys this holiday. But the best gift comes in helping someone else. Having my son participate in giving is also the best gift I can give him.
I don't mean to sound like some high falutin' do-gooder. Trust me, I have evil thoughts and deeds, just like everyone else. I also realize that with the economy the way it is, giving to charity may not be a top priority. But giving has many benefits for you and your family.
Foster a sense of empathy in your children
One of the ways you can help to foster a sense of caring in your child is by teaching him or or her to help others. According to the American Psychological Association, a study by Ziporah Magen, Ph.D. and Rachel Aharoni, Ph.D. found that teenagers who were involved in helping others felt very positive about their lives and had high hopes for their own futures.
There are so many ways to do this. Many parents have their children divide their allowance into three containers: spending, saving and sharing. They can donate their time (depending on their age) or do something as simple as gather some of their toys and clothes to donate to a local charity.