Every great, noble value is best learned at home. As parents, part of our responsibility is to seize opportunities to not just teach but model these values to our kids.
Generosity isn’t restricted to Christmas time—but I don’t think there is another season of the year that has more potential for families to practice it in so many ways.
The very heart of Christmas is giving to those in need—not out of obligation or compensation but purely as an act of unconditional love. God loved the people of this world so much that He gave us His Son, Jesus.
Kids are naturally selfish and need practical exercises to shift their focus to others—other kids in need, both local and far away; neighbors; people we will never meet; people without homes; the elderly; the sick; the hurting.
You may have established ways already in which your family reaches out to others at Christmas. But here are a few ideas to either help you get started or to possibly add to what you’re already doing to cultivate that family culture of generosity:
- Kids in need locally. It’s easy for kids to think everyone’s life is as good as theirs. So it’s important for them to realize that other kids may not have even the basic necessities that we take for granted. There are so many community options for families to take part in. Toys For Tots. Coats For Kids. Angel Tree through The Salvation Army. Not only can your kids be a part of purchasing items to donate, they should have the chance to donate from their own like-new clothing or toys. If it costs them something personally, it will mean even more.
Kids in need far away. Fortunately, there are great organizations that can help our kids expand their awareness of other world cultures and needs. Our favorite for years has been Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan’s Purse. If you’re not familiar with it, families decorate and fill plastic shoeboxes with personal care products and special gifts for children oversees. Many churches serve as collection centers. This outreach has to start early in the fall to allow sufficient time for delivery oversees by Christmas.
Neighbors. Sadly, many families are just not that in touch with their neighbors today. That’s a missed opportunity. Knowing neighbors and helping out where needed is a great way for our families to stay mindful of those around us and to do good where we can. Prepare simple gift packages of baked cookies, snack mixes, or hot cocoa mixes and deliver as a family. Perhaps help an elderly neighbor with their Christmas decorations.
Acts of service. Sometimes the greatest gift is your time and personal involvement. It’s extremely valuable for kids to experience this—and their aren’t many things more heartwarming than seeing kids involved in making someone’s Christmas brighter. Join with a number of other families and visit a nursing home to sing carols—especially if your kids’ grandparents or great-grandparents are residents. Volunteer as a family at the local Salvation Army or a local church outreach serving meals or distributing clothing.
The homeless. We have a friend who decided to prepare gift bags as a family with warm socks, gloves and other personal care items to give to homeless people they meet or to those asking for financial assistance on street corners. Our son’s family has made and delivered pancake breakfasts to the homeless. These seemingly simple gifts can make a huge impact on both the recipients and your kids as well.
Siblings. Kids can and should learn to give at very early ages by giving to their siblings. To optimize this, don’t give them money to buy gifts for their siblings or do the shopping for them. Help them to set aside money throughout the year as they get an allowance for household duties, etc. That way they have money for birthdays and Christmas gifts. Or they can make a special gift. Either way, it’s another way to build and show appreciation for each other.
Special Christmas offering. Something that was a part of our family traditions was to have a Christmas stocking for Jesus. Our family would set a goal when we decorated for Christmas for a special offering we would give to our church at our Christmas Eve service. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we would be mindful to set aside extra finances in this stocking, then take it with us as a family to church on Christmas Eve. This was another way we used to help keep the focus of our celebration on God’s greatest Gift to us.
God so loved the world that He gave. Instill the same value of generosity from unconditional love in your family this Christmas.
Question: How does your family practice generosity at Christmas time to others in need? Share your answer in the comments below.