Today is day eleven in our two-week Christmas series: Organizing Your Way to a Simple Christmas.
One of the best ways to keep from getting caught up in the commercialization of Christmas is to give to others in need. It’s easy to start out with the best of intentions to keep your focus on the “reason for the season” and not get caught up in the hubbub of the holidays. But it’s just as easy to get to the end of the season and look back only to realize you’ve let those intentions slip through your fingers without following through.
How can you keep that from happening? Yep, you guessed it. By creating a plan ahead of time so that you have a time and money set aside to invest in the charities and causes that are important to your family.
Really, the opportunities are endless, from volunteering in a local soup kitchen to participating in a worldwide campaign such as Operation Christmas Child. Whether you have a lot or just a little to give, charity and volunteering are a great way to focus on what really matters.
Getting Children Involved
While it’d be easy enough to just write a check to any number of organizations, it’s important to my husband and I that we also teach our children about charity. We’ve never tried to shield them from the facts of poverty and disease. Of course, we don’t share all of the details with them, but we want them to know how blessed we are and to have a heart for people who are less fortunate than us. We don’t want charity to just be something that mom and dad do, and so we encourage them to choose toys to donate, to spend time helping us with family service project-type activities and to even donate money from their allowance to help other people.
Here are some more tips for getting children involved:
- Choose projects that help them connect with a person or family and see the impact of their donation. Whether it’s filling a bag with food for a holiday meal, Christmas shopping for a family in need or filling boxes for Operation Christmas Child, putting together a donation of items is much more tangible for a child than just watching you write a check.
- Look for opportunities that involve the giving of time and money. Both are important, and there are times in all of our lives when we have more of one or the other to give. But it’s also important to show children the rewards that come from both so that they don’t get stuck in the rut of just donating money without having to give any of their time or volunteering without having to give something more tangible.
- Encourage your child to make sacrifices. Our church runs a campaign to fill bags with meals for families in the community during the holiday season. Last weekend, we picked up two bags to fill and then offered our two oldest daughters (3 and 5 years old) a choice. We told them that we would pay to fill one bag, or they could donate a portion of their allowances to help and each fill their own bag for a family who didn’t have a holiday dinner. The truth is that we don’t need the few dollars that each of them has saved, but we want them to be willing to make sacrifices to help others. This was a tough decision for our oldest daughter, who looks forward to going shopping with her allowance. But in the end she decided that she would have opportunities to earn more, and now she’s looking forward to decorating the bag, shopping for food and writing a note to the family that will receive it.
- Let them see you making sacrifices. Of course, it’s just as important that our kids see that we’re willing to make sacrifices as well. We try to be open about our finances with our kids (again, on an age-appropriate level), and we let them see when we sacrifice something we want in order to donate to a cause that’s important to us.
- Volunteer together. Children love spending time with their parents, and volunteering together is no exception. Make family memories centered around giving and volunteering so that charity becomes something they look forward to rather than dread.
Today’s task: Think through the opportunities you have for giving and volunteering this Christmas season. Which are most important to you? Put them on your Christmas Calendar and Christmas Budget so that they don’t get pushed aside in the busyness of the season!
What are your favorite charities to get involved with during the holidays? Do you look for opportunities to give or volunteer as a family?