It is never too early to teach a child to serve. When I was a small girl, 6 years old, I remember very carefully making paper ornaments, trinkets and gifts out of red and green construction paper and pipe cleaners. Then on a cold winter night, going with a little group to a home for the elderly and very disabled.
At first, I was nervous. They lined us up by a piano and we sang Christmas Carols. The residents sang with us. A woman in a wheel chair accepted my little gift and clutched my hand with her warm hands. She thanked me with tears in her eyes. That moment I felt a warmth and joy in my heart that I still feel when I take a minute to remember that day. I learned at 6 that serving others makes me happy.
The holidays are a perfect time to teach your children the joy of serving others. Here are some fun and interesting ways to teach your children to serve.
Start small at home
Secret Santa is a fun and inexpensive way to start. Write each family member's name on a piece of paper and put it in a hat. Take turns drawing each other’s names. You are now Secret Santa for the name you have drawn. Set some rules. You can give children a small budget or do an act of service. For example, Secret Santa could do his brother’s chores and shovel snow or clean up his toys. Parents will have to stay involved to make sure everyone benefits. Do not tell who you are Secret Santa to until Christmas day.
Give your children the power of giving
One of our close relatives has a family meeting each November. They tell their children the dollar amount of their Christmas gift budget. Then they ask their children how much they would like to use to give to others. They vote on an amount. Each year the children get a little more generous. They were surprised when their children voted to give away half their Christmas budget to others. Now they include their children in the process of deciding what to do with the money. The kids decide who they will give it to and how.
Once blessed, bless others
Another family member is very blessed and their children have everything they need. They decided as a family long ago, that rather than receive more toys, they would give their Christmas away each year. They humbly and secretly bring the gift of Christmas to others without any attention for themselves. Their children have learned to have generous and compassionate hearts.
Make room for gifts
We did not have many extra funds when our large family was young. Our children were encouraged to give away anything they were not using to make room for new Christmas toys. Teach your children that sometimes gently used toys make great gifts for other children. Toys that were never played with, still look new or are gently used may be accepted as donations at shelters or other centers in your community.
. Last year we made Christmas stockings and sent them to soldiers serving overseas. My daughter’s family used fleece to make hats that were donated to a charity. Toiletries like razors, bars of soap and toothbrushes are hard to come by on a fixed income. Decorate lunch sacks with old Christmas Cards and ribbon. Fill them with toiletries like toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap. Donate the bags to a local shelter to give to residents. Even if the items you make now are not used as Christmas gifts, the gift from your child’s heart will be priceless.
Funds for a cause
Even young children can become passionate about a cause. Eleven-year-old cancer patient, Hunter Hansen raises funds for his local children’s hospital. When your child finds a passion, helping them raise funds for it empowers them. It helps them believe they can change the world and make it a better place.
Locks of Love
is a wonderful way children can give to cancer patients. My 10-year-old granddaughter just donated her hair. We are so proud of her decision to give to others. When a young football player, Peter Hill, had cancer the entire team shaved their heads to support him as he went through chemo therapy.
Crafts for cash
Christmas is a good time to raise money for a cause by making Christmas cookies, having a bake sale or selling homemade Christmas ornaments and crafts.
Make this Christmas a new beginning. Make it the year your children feel the warmth that comes from serving others. Get them involved and teach them true service.
Here are the steps to help you begin:
Have a family meeting
and express your desire to serve. Share ideas you think you could help your children with. Ask for their comments and ideas. Make a list.
Give your kids the power to choose
and the opportunity to lead. Allow them to take charge and encourage them to own whatever project you choose to do.
Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh