Holidays: Teaching your kids to give the gift of themselves

How do you teach your children the importance of giving to those less fortunate than they are? Do you lecture them about giving to the poor? Do you nag them to finish their dinner because there are children starving in Africa? Or do you practice charity in your daily life? Often, as we raise our children, we are tempted to tell them to "do as I say, not as I do." Unfortunately, our children are more likely to follow "monkey see, monkey do." If you want your kids to grow up to be charitable adults, you have to teach it to them now -- through your own actions.

The holidays are the perfect time to teach your children about volunteering and giving the gift of themselves. Start in your coat closets. Pull out all the old coats that nobody wears any more and take them to a local homeless shelter. Let your kids see the people who might make good use of their old coats. Putting a face on the needy makes the giving more personal and more meaningful.

There are lots of food drives around the holidays, and here's a way to get your kids really involved in them. For several weeks, spend some time each Sunday going through the coupon section of the paper. Have your kids clip every coupon you think you can use. Then use them. Get your older kids to help you figure up how much you save on each shopping trip and put that money in a special jar or envelope. Then when you have saved enough, take the kids on a shopping trip. Have them help you pick out the non-perishable items for donation and buy just enough to use up all your saved cash. Take them along with you to deliver the food to a charitable organization, or to the boxes set up at most malls and stores. Your children's school may have a drive of their own, and your kids will feel a lot of pride when they know that they really helped contribute to it.

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