When our children were growing up, we made a conscious effort to involve them in helping others, partly because it is the thing we are expected to do while on this earth and partly because we wanted them to truly understand just how much they had…and not only in material possessions.
Obviously, a lot of this was centered around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that is a perfectly good place to begin teaching children to serve others; however, in my old age I’m thinking that it would be better to put some organization into the effort, and while I don’t think it is ever too late for our children to learn the lessons of serving and giving, I do think it is very important to begin when they are very young so that it becomes a part of who they are, who they always have been.
If you are not ready to branch out into a year-round project, why don’t you begin planning now for your starting place: Christmas. Start now by talking to them about possible projects and those who might be in need.
And…if your kiddos are young enough to still think you’re pretty darned cool….teach them to sing the Twelve Days of Christmas. Yes, I said to sing the Twelve Days of Christmas! Look up a little history on the song and then teach it as it was written.
Then, as it gets a little closer to Christmas choose what twelve days you want to be your official twelve days of Christmas, AND you get to substitute your personal projects into the song. For instance:
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
ONE PEACH PIE DELIVERY!
Peach pie came to me, but choose whatever you or you and your children come up with. Maybe you do take a pie to a shut-in or to a neighbor who doesn’t have family to visit often. BE SURE that your children help with the delivery AND the visiting, even if you have to teach them a few conversation starters.
One the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
TWO OUTGROWN COATS!
If you have clothing that your children have outgrown and it is still in great shape, I guarantee you that your school can tell you just who needs it. Of course, you can always change your lyrics to TWO BRAND NEW COATS if you prefer.
The only kicker is that (unless the needy is a friend or someone they know) it is always best if your kiddos actually get to visit the home where the coat is going. Obviously, you do not want to embarrass anyone, but your kids get to deliver the coat themselves, hopefully to a younger child. It is important that your children are allowed to understand that not everyone lives as comfortably as they do.
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
THREE VISITS TO THE NURSING HOME!
Visiting three residents in a local nursing home might be quite a lot for your children to do. You might also find that after three sets of hugs and kisses and appreciation, your children want to continue the visits!
If you are taking treats for three residents (and you do not know these people), you probably want to call ahead to find out who would be good candidates for your treats because dietary restrictions would prohibit some from enjoying your goodies.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
FOUR BELL RINGERS!!
I don’t know how many are in your family, but what if you all volunteered to “ring the bells” for the Salvation Army for one afternoon? It will sound like more than fun to some kiddos…who will wind up cold and tired and with a whole new appreciation for bell ringers!
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
FIVE CANS OF CORN!
You COULD load up and take canned goods to your local food bank, and that is a perfectly good thing to do. However, your kids will learn a lot more if you let them help you make an attractive box or basket and actually deliver the food yourselves.
If you don’t have someone in mind, call some of your local churches. They always have elderly or very young couples who are struggling and could use your help. Plus, the minister can vouch for the character of the people, and you do not have to worry about allowing your children to visit for a few minutes. If your family likes to sing, a great way to bring people to the door is to simply step up in the yard or on the porch and begin to belt out a Christmas carol!
On the sixth day of Christmas…well you get the idea, and I’ll close by saying only one last thing. It is very easy to be generous with someone else’s money. For your children to really learn the lessons to be learned from this project as well as to reap the feelings of a job well done, they need to contribute more than a quick trip across town with you.
Even very young children should be allowed in on choosing what you will buy, helping to make the pie, AND…having to give up something themselves.
Maybe they give up a week’s allowance to purchase the canned goods…
Maybe they mow a lawn…
Maybe they clean a house…
Maybe they volunteer to help one day in a soup kitchen…
Maybe they babysit for free so a young mom can go shopping herself…
Maybe they stay home on a Friday night to do the baking…
Or….maybe they invite a friend over to help them bake!
Obviously, you know your own children and how to work this out in their best interest. If you work it right, you can turn this into a project that not only blesses others but one that draws your family even closer together.
Merry Christmas many months in advance! Once you have this one down, you’ll be ready to take on others things throughout the year and rear some pretty darned good children in the process.
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