By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
Happy Holidays! December is known for holidays and gift giving, and merchants won’t let you forget it. Holiday songs can be heard on the radio in many stores, even before Halloween. Customers are bombarded by advertisements for children’s toys and the latest technological advancement that every adolescent and adult must own. Families enter the holidays intending to make purchases within a budget, yet most admit after the holidays that they have overspent. If you have made a commitment this year to spend less – good for you! Let me, explain the reasons, besides financial, why this is beneficial.When your child receives a present, do you feel that they are truly appreciative? Many children seem to take gifts for granted: the wrapping paper is torn open, the gift is acknowledged with a smile, and a cursory thank you is stated. Some children look as if they expected something more. Some even state that aloud. A parent who has taken great care to select the perfect gift is disappointed. And the child appears selfish and self-centered. Children should have real appreciation for what they receive and be aware of the care that went into selecting their gift(s).
Use the practice of gift giving to develop compassion in your children. Parents can concentrate on the spirit of the holiday and forego the expenses of the season. Instead of numerous and expensive gifts, each member of the family can create personalized gifts, so the child learns the importance of thinking of others. Children experience altruism (selflessness) when creating personal gifts (i.e.: a poem, artwork, a musical presentation, etc) so please consider this holiday gift giving practice with all your children, preschool age and up.
Another way to embrace the spirit of holiday giving is to select a favorite charity. Then, instead of, or in addition to gifts, discuss the charity as a family and make a donation. For something different, consider contributing to programs that provide animals, animal products (wool, eggs, milk) or microcredit (to develop a small business) to third-world families.
When children are encouraged to support a meaningful cause, they are less likely to think that they are the center of their universe. Have them participate in community service. When volunteering, children practice many skills: they learn to follow directions, listen to an authority figure, communicate, negotiate with peers and adults and take another’s needs into account before their own. It is important for children to recognize that they are part of a larger society to which they have a responsibility. I’ve included a list of organizations that involve children. If you are interested in having your child volunteer, please check the organization yourself to be sure that they match your family’s values and your child’s personality.
When children experience compassion, they tend to look at the world more positively and with more gratitude. This improves relationships and brings an appreciation for what is. These concepts and suggestions can guide your child toward selflessness and compassion, as well as reclaiming the true meaning of the holiday season.
Volunteer organizations to consider for this holiday season and throughout the year:
- Senior centers
- Animal shelters
- Places of worship
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties; work or school related anxiety; ADHD; Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders; and those who wish to Remember and Become Who You Really Are. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www. SpiralWisdom.net for more information.
Published in Metro You Magazine, December 2010