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Use Joy of Getting To Teach Greater Joy of Giving

By Thelma Domenici
For the Journal
          Dear Thelma: At this time of year so much seems to revolve around what material things kids want. How do we turn the focus to the importance of generosity?
        A: The holidays are a great time of year to shine a spotlight on ideas like generosity and receiving gifts gracefully, but these really are things we should strive to teach and exhibit throughout the year. Then we can use the holiday season to solidify what we've learned.
        Many kids concentrate on what they're going to get at Christmastime, and that's OK. It's part of the tradition of being a kid at Christmas, and we don't have to minimize that. However, we also can use those gift lists they come up with as an opportunity to talk about "wanting" and "needing." Those conversations can allow us to look at expectations and discuss what it means to be realistic, even under the magic of Santa.
        Lessons can be taught in many family conversations. When we write letters to Santa, we can talk about how it feels to receive a great gift and how we can bring that feeling to others. Encourage kids to do things for each other, whether that means spending some hard-earned allowance on a brother or spending time making a Lego creation for a sister.
        A surprise breakfast-in-bed is a treat everyone feels honored by. It could even mean a child goes through his or her stuffed animal collection to pick out a favorite to give to someone special.
        Include kids in your own planning to do things for others. If you take a tag off a gift tree to buy for someone in need, let your kids experience the joy of shopping with you for that gift.
        Kids can be surprisingly generous when given the opportunity to be. Bringing up the subject of giving as something they should be involved in and providing the opportunity are often all it takes to turn Christmas into as much a time for giving as for getting.
        Dear Thelma: I am thinking about how to write a Christmas letter to tell people that you won't be sending them any more Christmas cards, cutting your list as it is. Not that I'm not interested in them, but it's been years since we saw these people and I don't want to hear about their passing by a returned Christmas card, or a note that says, "By the way, Mother passed away several months ago. Sorry we never let you know." How would you handle the problem?
        A: I wouldn't see it as a problem. If there are people you no longer want to send a card to, just don't send one. A letter to that effect is unnecessary.
        If they don't hear from you, they may end up not sending you a card, but there is no polite way to ask people to take you off their Christmas card lists.
        Dear Thelma: How do I stop other people's kids from ruining the magic of Santa for my kids? I have three young children who all believe in Santa, but who soon won't if those kids don't keep quiet. What can I do?
        A: We really can't control what other people do and say, can we? You'll have to figure out how to handle it in your own family.
        One mom had a mantra she used when faced with nay-sayers: "You have to believe to receive." The magic continued in that house even to the point that the kids as pre-teens were convinced it was their duty to explain to Mom the secret. Another stretched the magic by turning every question back to the kids: "Do you think he's real?"
        Santa and good manners never go out of style.
        Have a question about etiquette? You can ask it at www.askthelma.com. Thelma Domenici is CEO of Thelma Domenici & Associates, offering corporate coaching and contemporary social skills development programs to all ages.

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