Kids love the holidays for many reasons — twinkling lights, baking cookies, days off from school — but we all know their favorite part of the season. Whether they come from Santa or grandma, whether they’re wrapped in paper or dropped in a bag, kids go nuts over gifts. So during a time of year when kids are geared up and ready to receive, how can we teach them about the power of giving? We spoke to Atrium Health Levine Children’s pediatrician Dr. Chpryelle Carr about helping kids understand the importance of giving and serving others this holiday season.
Reframe the reason for the season
Kids often think the holidays are all about themselves: Which presents will they get? Will they get more than their classmates? Dr. Carr said it’s important to teach children that the holidays are about spending time with family and friends, not just for presents. She suggested telling them the best gift they can receive is the feeling of giving to people less fortunate than they are. “Communication with children is key. When asking for gifts, it is important for families to acknowledge privilege and recognize that others are not as fortunate,” Dr. Carr says. “For example, when my children ask for new toys during the holiday season, we ask for them to donate older toys first.”
Never too young for community service
The best way to teach kids about giving is to have them participate in community service, Dr. Carr says. “Participating in community service projects can also teach kids about privilege,” she said. “Oftentimes, children don't realize how fortunate they are until they interact with or serve others who are less fortunate.” And community service can start at an early age — there’s no such thing as being too young to help.
Pick a program and volunteer together
In Charlotte, we’re fortunate to have access to lots of great organizations that help serve the community during the holiday season. Dr. Carr said her family has participated in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program for many years. “We try to help families that are similar in ages (to) our family so our children can actively be involved in purchasing needed supplies for others their age,” she says. Operation Christmas Child and similar organizations are perfect for younger children to participate in because they love filling the box for other kids in need. You can also check with your child’s school, which might put on a food or clothing drive during the holidays. Dr. Carr suggests going as a family to purchase these items while continuing to discuss the importance of giving to those in need. Adolescents and teenagers have plenty of options for giving back, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen.
Keep it Simple
It can be as simple as sending a care package to a soldier deployed overseas or making holiday cards with nursing home residents — any act of giving will help teach children why it’s more important to give than to receive. Your family can also bring presents to children at Levine Children’s Hospital Your family can also donate gifts to children at the Levine Children's Hospital. Check out our donation wish list and some guidelines for donating toys or gifts.
This holiday season, be intentional about talking about the importance of giving. And however you choose to give back to the community, you’ll love spending time together as a family.
Dr. Carr is a pediatrician at Waxhaw Pediatrics. She’s been practicing for nine years (at this practice for 1.5 years). She’s married with two beautiful children, ages 6 and 4. She enjoys exercising, reading, spending time with family and cheering on the best college football team: the UGA Bulldogs.