Christmas is known as the season of giving, but that might be a difficult concept for children to understand. With the onslaught of holiday ads, it’s only natural for them to ponder “getting” vs. “giving” during the holidays. While receiving gifts usually produces a good feeling, research indicates that giving creates an even greater joy.
To give means to offer something to someone without a requirement for anything to be given in return. Research suggests that the act of giving increases a person’s health and happiness! In addition, it’s contagious! When someone gives us something with no strings attached, it often stimulates our desire to reciprocate even though it’s not required.
A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. The researchers found that altruism (feelings and behavior that show a desire to help other people and a lack of selfishness) could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”
I want to encourage each of you to be the catalyst that inspires a child to experience the joy of giving. Here are a few suggestions to help you start the process:
Be a role model. Let your children see you donate your time, money, or material goods to those in need during the holiday season.
Encourage your children to get involved. As children get older, they can take a more active role alongside you in causes they support.
Teach your child that it doesn’t always take money to give. Help your child make gift certificates that offer acts of service that are good for things like walking the dog, washing the car, breakfast in bed, etc. These make excellent Christmas gifts! Help them gather items like gently used clothes or toys and donate them to organizations they support.
Make it personal. Openly discuss how your act of giving will benefit others. Children need to learn how to be more mindful.
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”