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By Samantha Cleaver
From filling stockings to filling up on pie, the holiday season can reinforce the “gimme-gimme” attitude in all of us. This year, set aside a little time to practice gratitude, empathy, and thoughtfulness with your family with these 11 ways to remember what truly matters.
Holiday Party Briefing
When you’re a kid, the holidays can feel like a blur of new faces and forced courtesies. Before the next holiday get-together, flip through some old family photos with your child. Share stories about the relatives and friends who are coming that will help him connect with them. Etiquette expert Hilary Brennan recommends having your child write down some questions to ask them. Trying to relate to people he doesn't know well not only builds social skills—it encourages him to appreciate and love them instead of just thinking of them as random people who come around once a year to shower him with gifts.
Writing Thank You Notes
In the digital age, it’s easy to shoot off a quick text or email to say our thank-yous, but taking the time to write some old-fashioned thank you notes will give your child a chance to dwell on what he’s thankful for and give him practice articulating it. He can even make a cute card to write it in! Recent studies have shown that expressing gratitude makes you feel even more thankful and happier overall. Sit down with your kid after a holiday event to handwrite notes to the guests or host, and for gifts he received. As a bonus, he’ll also get to practice his writing and language skills.
Out With the Old
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Visit a Nursing Home
Bake a big batch of cookies, put them in some festive bags, and make a trip to a nursing home nearby. Take some time to have your little one visit with elderly who might feel especially lonely during the holidays. Maybe even encourage a few hugs for some extra warm fuzzies! If your child has a few other friends who can tag along, organize a caroling group. It doesn't have to be a Broadway production—even a couple tunes will make everyone's day.
Cook for a Crowd
Reach out to a local homeless shelter, family organization or religious organization and ask if they can hook you up with a family to cook a holiday meal for. Get your kid involved in planning and cooking the meal. Or, hold a holiday cooking party with friends and family to contribute to a food pantry. Grown-up party guests can cook or bake together, or make healthy snack bags (pistachio and dried cranberry mix), and kids can wrap treats with a festive bow and include a handwritten holiday greeting.
Have a Bake Sale
Have a Travelling Talent Show
Make a List
...and not one full of presents your child wants. Have him make a list of wishes he has for family, friends, and people around the world for the holiday season. You can frame the question as, "If you had ten wishes to spend on people other than yourself, what would you wish for?" Prompt him to think of what things might make others happy, but give him a chance to reflect on his own. If you celebrate Christmas with Santa, your kid can even decorate the paper and send it off to the North Pole along with his personal wish list.
Have a Craft Party
Invite all the arts and crafts enthusiasts you know over to pool some supplies and help kids do some cute DIY gifts to give away, whether its to troops overseas or your neighbor down the street. You can create some beautiful pasta snowflake ornaments and paper snow globes, or, for a more practical gift, get some plain sweatshirts and have kids paint designs on them for a gift that will keep someone cozy inside and out.
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Gratitude, like positive thinking or breaking a bad habit, is something that comes from practice. Helping your child learn how to appreciate what he has and the value of giving to the less fortunate won't put a damper on the festivities—it will make them more joyful and meaningful for everyone involved and support a charitable mindset that will stick with him as he grows up.