Christmas is right around the corner, and I can’t help but think about my 3-year-old’s growing awareness of the world around her. What piqued my interest was my husband’s recent trip to the store to pick up some groceries and other odds and ends. He told me that they were in line waiting to check-out and he was coercing her to choose one of the princess Barbie dolls she had begged to take home. Aurora or Jasmine – obviously a difficult choice.
“Ok, baby, let’s choose one,” he said calmly.
“I want both,” she replied.
“Ok, sweetheart,” he surrendered, so easily, as he always does.
“Two dolls? It’s almost Christmas!” the woman behind him in line barked.
My husband immediately felt guilty for submitting to his pre-school daughter’s demands, but at this point he was willing to do whatever he could to avoid a complete and total melt-down before nap time.
He glanced behind him as the woman fumbled with her EBT stamps to pay for the few items in her cart. He felt as though he should have done something – either helped the woman or encouraged our daughter to only choose one doll (cue #firstworldproblems). This prompted our discussion about how to teach empathy.
How do we teach thankfulness? How do we teach our children to feel for others?
We did our best to explain to her the effects of the recent flood which impacted our closest neighbors and friends; took her to our church to drop off supplies. She has a rudimentary understanding that is was a bad experience for some, but we really want to do our best as parents to show her two things: how lucky she truly is, and how everyone is not able to have the things that she has access to.
As a result, I researched Christmas volunteer opportunities that I think would be appropriate for a preschool aged child to experience (and are still accepting assistance). I also included some of my favorite ideas for helping my daughter personally show thanks to others.
Palmetto Project sponsors a drive each year wherein you can provide specific, requested gifts for families in need. Last year, Families Helping Families in the Midlands and the Lowcountry provided assistance to more than 3,000 families in need of food, clothing, and Christmas gifts. There is still time to volunteer and participate – whether it be adopting a family, helping organize gifts or delivering presents to families.
I love this one, and I have always wanted to participate. You pack a shoebox with a gift, toiletries, and school supplies that will be delivered to a child in need. Your child can help pick out items and fill the box. Year round, you can build a shoebox online or mail your gift-filled shoebox to their headquarters at 801 Bamboo Road, Boone NC 28607.
Creating Homemade Gifts
Instead of just having your child say thank you, allow them to make a personal craft that shows their thankfulness. It will have more of a lasting impact because they will remember the project and why they created it, and it also allows the recipient to have something fun and tangible to hang onto after the fact. Homemade gifts are also options you can consider for the above two volunteer opportunities. Here are a few of my favorites a la’ Pinterest: 20 Cute DIY Gifts for Kids to Make, Gifts Kids Can Make and 25 Christmas Gifts Kids Can Make.
Now, my daughter is a little too young to serve in some capacities, so most of the things we would be doing is providing others with things they made need during the holiday season. My hope is that she can come into contact with some of the people she will be effecting directly, but that isn’t always possible with some volunteer opportunities.
Nevertheless, with this exposure to the “real world” and her community, we hope to awaken a sense of thankfulness in our child that will transcend into her adolescence and so on. I am looking forward to experiencing the joy that you can feel when helping others through her eyes, and revitalizing that feeling in myself.
What are some ways you’ve taught your child thankfulness during the holidays?
Rebecca Jordan has lived in Columbia, SC practically her entire life! She attended the University of South Carolina Honors College and currently teaches fifth grade at Satchel Ford Elementary. She and her husband, Hampton, have two daughters, Elizabeth Ann (3) and Caroline (5 months), as well as their golden retriever, Sugar. When not working, Rebecca enjoys writing (obviously), cooking, reading and running. Her children have taught her more about love, joy, sadness, strength, stress and letting go than she could have ever thought possible.