Overcoming the Ads to Give Your Children a Spirit of Giving This Holiday Season

Child delivering warm coatsWe all get immersed in the excitement of the holidays, and for our kids, it is even more so. The lights, the sites, the goodies around every corner, bring a heightened sense that something really good is coming. Along with the excitement and the joy, can often come misdirected focus on the meaning of the holidays. The pitfalls are real. After all, as adults we get caught up in Black Friday deals, Cyber Monday shopping and the anxiety of not getting exactly what we want for Christmas, either for ourselves or our loved ones. 

According to Adweek, children ages 2- 11 see more than 25,000 advertisements per year, through multiple channels. These ads can be as obvious as television commercials aired during a child’s favorite preschool show to as subtle as product placement in a video game. During the holidays, these advertisements are ramped up as retailers and service providers focus on doing everything they can to convince us to buy their products.

As parents, we want to weed through all of the messages of “get this now” and “you need that or else” that inundate our kids on an almost non-stop basis. We need to refocus our children back to the true meaning of the holidays, once of joy, peace, love and a spirit of giving.

“If parents don’t focus on the giving, our children will get the message about getting from our materialistic culture,” says Jim Taylor, Phd, author of Your Children Are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear from You. He urges parents to instill a spirit of giving in our children, “Because giving also instills empathy, compassion and humility. Plus, it makes us feel happy and fulfilled,” he says. “And it gives our living meaning beyond our own selfish needs.”

The holiday season offers the perfect time to give one of the best gifts your children will ever get, a gift that will become part of their character for the rest of their lives, the gift of the spirit of giving. “Unfortunately, the holidays have become dominated by consumption (buy, buy, buy!),” Dr. Taylor says. “But at the heart of both Thanksgiving and Christmas, is giving (thanks, gifts, love) and sharing. It is also a time when there are so many people in our country and the world who need our giving to survive.”

It is those every day moments, the gestures both large and small, that teach children the value of giving and foster a sense of responsibility in the world. By connecting acts of giving with positive emotions, Dr. Taylor advises, children will naturally learn that empathy, compassion, fulfillment, love, and caring have their own lifelong rewards. “Giving should be a part of a family’s culture,” he says. “Parents should talk about giving, act on giving, show examples of giving, share emotions about giving, and arrange opportunities for giving.”

Parents and caregivers can get started at any time. “Giving is ageless,” Dr. Taylor says. “Children as young as a one year old understand the basic concept of giving. As children get older, deeper meaning can be added, more interactive conversations can be had about giving, and more experiences can be found for giving.”

Dr. Taylor’s final bit of advice is this: “If parents don’t send healthy and positive messages about giving, children will listen to the messages from popular culture about me, me, me, and get, get, get. And that is a road that we shouldn’t want our children to go down.”

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