By Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C


‘Tis the season! We work our way through Thanksgiving very shortly here, and then the full-on holiday giving season arrives. It can be so much fun to shop for the perfect gift, wrap it beautifully, and anticipate the opening. And of course there’s the fun of getting all those gifts.


But as we rush about filling our lists and checking them twice, the season also gives us a perfect opportunity to begin to teach our children about the concept of charity.


We’ve been braving tough economic times, and families continue to feel the effects. More than ever, this is a time to teach children to be grateful for what they have, and begin to pay if forward by giving to others in need.


Here are some ideas to begin to teach your children about charity during the holiday season.


A Giving Tree: Many schools, churches, and towns put together giving trees around this time of year. They gather the names of children in need and what they might like for the holidays and place this information on a tag. The tags are hung on a tree, and community members can go choose a tag, buy the gift, and bring it to the organizer for distribution. This is a great opportunity for your child to connect with someone his or her age and gender, go to the store, and help pick out a present that is just right for someone else.


Soup Kitchens and Food Shelves: Organizations that provide food to people in need have seen the demand for their services increase, even as funding and donations dwindle. Help stock the shelves! Take your child grocery shopping with you and have them choose a set number of nonperishable items, and then deliver them to the organization of your choice.


Clean That Closet: Is your child going to get new toys and clothes as gifts this season? Help them learn the idea of paying it forward by choosing toys they no longer use as much and donate them to organizations that give to families in need. Check with a local women’s crisis center – they are often helping women and children leave dangerous situations and begin again with nothing.


You Choose: Choose a local charity that is important to your family.  Find out exactly what they do, what they need, and how you and your children can get involved. Children can be very sensitive and receptive to the plights of others. Tell your child about the people they are helping in age appropriate terms that they can understand, and let them be a part of the decision making process on what you will do together.


Together, you and your family can indeed make this “the most wonderful time of year” for others… and help your child grow, as well as draw closer as a family, in the process. Happy giving.