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Daily Telegraph Article - Raise appreciative kids.

Raise appreciative kids and decrease the clutter in your home by donating – Win Win

Too many birthday gifts?

Do you feel like your children get too many birthday and Christmas presents? And are you worried about your kids becoming ungrateful? Here are some great ideas to help you raise appreciative children, help those less fortunate and decrease the clutter in your home! Win Win Win!

Did you know that charitable acts have physical and emotional benefits?

When your child is very young and doesn’t really understand about birthday gifts, why not invite your friends and family to make a charitable donations in lieu of presents for your child. You’re not alone – this is a growing trend – perhaps you’ve already been asked to do this?

I first experienced this on our son Cameron’s first birthday, when my colleague Ursula who lives in the UK, gifted a school desk to a child in Ethiopia on behalf of Cameron in lieu of a birthday gift. – I loved the idea and it started me on this journey of gift giving for birthdays too.

More recently, my friend Natasha, asked us to make a donation for her daughter’s birthday rather than a gift, so we contributed towards a water well being built in a village and sent her the details.

I’m not suggesting no gifts and that every gift should be a donation. While giving to charity for a child’s birthday offers so many benefits, it’s important to maintain a good balance – a gift for charity and a gift for the child – this way the child feels special on their birthday too.

Raising well-rounded and caring kids

Gifting to charities has grown in popularity as many parents can see the negative impact on their children of receiving too many gifts including becoming expectant and unappreciative. Let’s face it, when children receive gift after gift after gift – it takes away the “excitement” and the “specialness” of receiving a gift. We don’t want to rob our children of this!

Parents are aware of the importance of raising well-rounded children who are socially aware and have empathy and care for others. As parents, we need to lead the way role modelling caring and kindness by involving our children in family gift giving and helping others. If learning about altruism doesn’t come from home, where will it come from?  It’s not just about having the conversations but actually experiencing it with our children.

Here are some of our personal examples.

At Christmas time Cameron, Colin and I buy gifts together to wrap and donate to less fortunate children. This gives us an opportunity to talk to Cameron about how fortunate we are and how good it feels to help others.

We also buy the Big Issue on a regular basis – In the early days, Cameron asked us why we do that – so we talked about supporting homeless people.

This way our son is experiencing the benefits of helping others – how good it feels - with the aim of it becoming an integral part of who he is as a person in adulthood – a caring, empathetic and generous person.

Decreasing clutter in your home

Then there’s the ‘practical’ aspect of suggesting your friends and family donate rather than bring a gift – it helps reduce the clutter in your home. We all know that when children have too many toys – it’s a mess AND they don’t get to enjoy their gifts properly – there are too many to attract their attention for long.

Benefits of altruism for the whole family

If we look at the research on altruism – volunteering, donating and caring for others, we see that study after study shows that people who are empathetic and care for others are happier and have greater well-being. This is particularly true for older people.

With children – the greatest benefits occur when children willingly give as if they are forced the, benefits are lessened. This is why to get the maximum benefits, if they are old enough to understand its crucial to get your children involved in the giving of “their” birthday or Christmas presents. When children participate in the process they gain the full benefits on the other hand, if gifting is done for them without a choice, they may feel resentful.

By being part of the whole process, children feel like they are making the difference in the life of another – they are foregoing a present willingly. Invite your children to can pick the charity they would like to support. This way they will get the greatest benefits of being caring and generous people.

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