Helping Children Focus on Giving


by Terry Rogers



As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, many parents wonder how to keep their children focused on the true meaning of the holiday and not just look at it as a day of food, football and the start of the Christmas season. Judy Purcell, the Education Director at St. John the Apostle in Milford, offered several tips to help keep children focused on the reason for the celebration.

“As we walk through our daily life, it can be hard, in the midst of soccer practice, brushing teeth and homework to be sure children are developing the traits you want them to have,” Purcell said. “It is important to include lessons in compassion and generosity as well.”

Purcell explained that children learn by participating in giving. Parents who want their children to grow up with a sense of how important giving of their time and resources are, need to demonstrate those traits early. In addition, young children need immediacy. If a child is young, it is important to do so in ways that give the child immediate gratification. For example, when grocery shopping, point out the food collection bins and ask if they would like to choose something to place in the bin right away. If older children receive an allowance for chores, set goals for monetary donations of their money.

“Children often have creative ideas to raise money,” Purcell said. “You could have them clear their room of toys and games they no longer play with and set up a yard sale with all proceeds going toward a food bank or other worthy cause. You could also donate the items to a local shelter, letting the child know that their unwanted possession will make a child less fortunate very happy.”

Although these activities teach children the need to give back to the community, there are also ways to help children understand that the holiday is about being thankful. One tradition is to begin a Thanksgiving box. This is something that can begin on November 1st with family members writing on a slip of paper each day one thing they are thankful for. Let the children decorate the box and use it as a centerpiece on Thanksgiving. Either before eating dinner or just after, open the box and read what each family member wrote.

“Another idea is to purchase simple “thinking of you” cards,” Purcell said. “On Thanksgiving Day, ask all who are present to sign the cards, maybe even write a short note. Then, mail them to those who cannot be with the family on Thanksgiving. If all of your family is able to gather, consider sending them to a military base as a way to thank those who are unable to be with family for their service.”

Purcell explained that these are just a few ideas to teach children the meaning of Thanksgiving and that parents may develop their own methods to keep children focused on their blessings. By instilling an attitude of gratitude when they are young, the desire to help others and be thankful for their many blessings will carry forward into adulthood.



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