Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year. I am in love with everything this time of year: the decorations, the smells this time of year, the predictable, yet addicting Hallmark movies, tamale making and of course spending time with friends and family.
Who doesn’t love the hearing Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You," which hit number 1, playing as you sip hot cocoa while you wrap gifts for your loved ones.
It is all too easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of buying the newest, coolest, trending toy or gadget for your child but one gift that we need to place on our to-do list during the Christmas season is to look for opportunities to teach children the importance of gratitude and giving back, rather than just “gimmie this and gimme that”.
There are lots of easy, tangible ways to teach gratefulness and gratitude this time of year:
- Model grateful behavior – As parents, we are our child’s first teacher. They will always follow our lead. This grateful behavior extends beyond receiving gifts. It is easy for us as parents to constantly remind our children to say “please” and “thank you” or to try to look on the bright side of things. The attitude of gratitude is about how we react during situations. Let them see you setting good examples and leading the way when you engage in giving back. Here's what my colleague and fellow mom friend, Delia Douglas Haight and I did with Francesca Pappagallo of The Gayle Cronin Foundation
After losing her mother to cancer, Francesca created The Gayle Cronin Foundation in her mother's honor. The Gayle Cronin Foundation is an organization that provides direct financial assistance to families impacted by the burden of pediatric cancer and severe pediatric illnesses including those impacted by mental illnesses.
When Delia asked Francesca if her organization could support the pediatric department at Dignity Health Northridge Hospital Medical Center by sponsoring a visit by Princess Tiana, she didn't hesitate. She knew exactly who to bring as Princess Tiana. Danielle Duncan performed as Tiana and handed out toys to the children hospitalized during the holidays.
When she's not performing and giving back, Danielle Duncan, is a specialist psychological service at los Angeles Unified School District.
- Write a thank you note - I know that this is old-fashioned or old-school and something I disliked when my mom made me do it as a kid but there is nothing that expresses gratitude more than a handwritten note saying thank you. Once your child receives a gift, get in the habit of writing thank you note. If you child can’t write, have them scribble or draw a picture.
Being grateful is more than saying “Thank You” after a person gives you a gift. But why exactly should we teach our children gratefulness and gratitude? Teaching gratefulness and gratitude allows children to learn how to be reflective and see beyond themselves. To let them understand what they have can be easily taken away. That nothing is to be taken for granted. Our main goal should be to raise decent, kind and compassionate little humans that will be adults we'd want to hang with.
- Volunteer as a Family/Team/Group – During the holiday’s people may look to volunteer to serve meals at their local shelter. Another idea is to visit a retirement community/nursing home to visit the residents. Many of the older residents will cherish the interaction with your children as they may not get visitors often or have family that live far away. Encourage them to give back – It’s better to give than receive right? The holiday season (as well as any time of the year) is a great time to make a real contribution to your community. Have your children play little elves and shop for toys that they believe other children their age would like to play with. Once all the gifts are purchased visit your local children’s hospital, women’s shelter or visit a toy drive to donate the gifts.
Check out what my son and his CSUN Athletics Program did for Northridge Foundation's Annual Holiday Jam.
The Matador Baseball, Cheer and Band came out to support the event and then walked the pediatric floor and interacted with the patients. They also did cheers and handed out presents.
If this list seems overwhelming, don’t let it be. Gratitude is easy to express and can help to make our children empathetic and thankful for all that they have.
From my family to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a blessed New Year!