Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas: Teach Your Teen to Give Back During the Holiday Season

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Giving to others doesn’t have to be about giving money. It is about giving time, giving complements, giving a smile, giving attention, giving a helping hand, giving emotional support, or giving a kind word or gesture. While monetary donations have their place and time, Christmas spirit is about enriching another’s life through kind action and intention.

Giving and receiving are both habits. The more we receive the more we expect to receive and the more we demand to receive. The more we give, the more excited we are to recreate the experience, and the more enthusiastic we are to give again.

Sometimes parents wonder about their children’s expensive expectations at Christmas and other gift giving occasions. This usually happens when receiving is not balanced with giving. For many teens, giving is not as expected of them as receiving because they have little or no income. But giving is not about money; the spirit of the season is what you make of it. The traditions you create with your kids are the ones they often carry into adulthood and recreate when they start their families.

As you read about the ways your teen can give, you’ll notice, your child will receive 2 specific gifts each time he makes an offering. He will receive the gifts of gratitude and wisdom that can only be gained by being in service to others! These gifts build social responsibility, humility, a positive character, and a motivation to make a difference in the world.

Promote your family values during the Christmas season. Giving is better than receiving.

1. Volunteer: Donate time at food shelter (soup kitchen). This is one of the most common volunteer opportunities cited and also one of the most overlooked. The reason being is that volunteering takes a little more effort, time, and attention than giving money, or donating food and clothes. Expose your child to various forms of living (including the luxurious life) so he gains a sophisticated understanding of the world.

2. Donations: Food, money, clothing, toys, hygiene products. These are things we have and use daily, but often take for granted because we just expect them to be a part of our life each day. For many people these are precious items that may not be there from day-to-day. Being involved in community organizations is an excellent way for teens to be exposed to people who experience a lack in the areas they have plenty.

3. Acts of Kindness: Nothing brings a smile to someone’s face faster than random acts of kindness (e.g., giving up your seat for someone, sending a handwritten notes saying thanks, picking up garbage, offering to help). Even the angriest people cannot resist receiving a gesture of kindness. Make this your family’s and teens’ habit.

4. Invitations: Is there anyone in the neighbourhood who doesn’t have a family or anyone to celebrate Christmas with? Why not teach your child to open his home and heart to individuals who have no one else to share the holidays with?

5. Community events: As a family, be a part of community events. There is usually a lot going on in most cities and towns. Call your city hall or visit their website for more information. Public libraries also seem to know about ongoing events. Being regularly involved with community events will train your teen to be open, generous, and active.

6. Say thanks: People often forget to express their appreciation for services rendered (think how often you feel underappreciated in a romantic relationship)--because we are usually not even aware we received. Many parents claim their children are often ungrateful. Teach your teen to stay in the moment and be conscious of gifts and services they receive and to show their appreciation.

7. Smile: One of the most generous gifts is the gift of a smile. It costs nothing and requires little effort, yet we are usually not in the habit of giving it. It is not just about giving it to family, friends, and neighbours. Many strangers and acquaintances cross our path during the day that could benefit from our smile. Model to your kids what happens when they share a smile. Help them build this wonderful habit.

Show your teen he CAN make a positive difference in the world. It all starts with simple actions.

Best Wishes to Your Family This Christmas Season

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

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