Like most toddlers, my daughter believes that the world revolves around her. She has to do everything herself, and when she does not get something that she wants, well, epic tantrums sometimes ensue. Although she does not fully comprehend the concept of Christmas yet, the abundance of toys and shiny things in stores this time of year makes her saying, “I want!” more than usual. I know it may be hard for her to comprehend, but I make a point of talking about the needs of others. I hope that this resonates with her not only around the holidays but throughout the year as well.
Common courtesy goes a long way and is an easy way to teach your children about the needs of others. See a mom struggling to get a stroller through a door? See someone in a wheelchair that may need some assistance? See someone at the grocery a few cents short on his order? Hold the door open, offer help, or offer a few cents to someone. It may not be something big or life-changing, but it may be all that person needs to smile or have a better day. And your kids will notice it.
A few weeks ago at the post office, my daughter looked up at me and said, “Somebody wants to help her?” I glanced over to where my daughter was looking and a woman using a walker was having difficulty opening the door. I abandoned my card and went to help her. My daughter asked the woman, “You okay?” We talked in the car on the way home about how important it is to do nice and helpful things like that for other people.
We also talk about fire trucks and ambulances. Being a healthcare worker myself, I always talk about them if we see or hear them when we are driving or out somewhere. I tell my daughter that if she hears sirens or sees an ambulance or fire truck, that we should stop and say a prayer. We pray not only for the sick or injured people, but also for all the people who may end up taking care of them, such as firefighters, EMTs, doctors, aides, and nurses.
When it comes to the holidays, our family keeps it simple.
Since my daughter’s first Christmas, we have done four gifts: something she wants, something she needs, something to wear and something to read. We plan on doing this every year. By limiting individual gifts, it allows us the money to buy Christmas gifts for those truly in need, as well as purchasing something our whole family can enjoy, like a zoo pass. I realize this is not for every family, but it works for us. On her birthdays in the near future, we will request that guests bring gifts to donate somewhere instead of toys for her.
A tradition I started the year she was born was taking Christmas presents to Ronald McDonald House. Every year, I talk to her throughout the year about the sick kids at the hospital and at the Ronald McDonald House. These children and their families do not get to spend Christmas at home. Often times, they are in the hospital many other days out of the year as well. Our tradition is buying toys and gifts whenever we see them on sale. A few weeks before Christmas, we pack up big bags filled with presents for the kids and their family members and drop them off together. It is my hope when she is old enough that we can volunteer together at the Ronald McDonald House.
These are some of the ways I hope will teach my daughter about kindness and helping others not only this time of year but all yearlong. What do you do to teach your children the importance of giving and being aware of the needs of others?