Featured Editorial

Top 5 Ways to Teach Kids to Give & Receive in the #BetterThanPresents Holiday Spirit

The holidays season brings out the best in people. I'm a firm believer in this statement. Despite the growing trends of commercialization of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, we are good and we want to do good. To help families to begin the conversation, emphasizing love over material things during the holiday season, Wear the Cape, a brand that "gives back and aims to restore the power of kindness and heroic character with cool, inspirational products" and its non-profit the kidkind foundation, have released the “Top 5 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Give and Receive in the Holiday Spirit.”

Thank you to the dedicated team from Wear the Cape for sponsoring this guest post with informative content for families.

Top 5 Ways to Teach Your Kids to 
Give and Receive in the Holiday Spirit

Wear the Cape’s tips were conceived by the organization’s resident character education expert Philip Brown, PhD, who is a Fellow of the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University, where he founded and directed the Center for Social and Character Development. With his pointers, Dr. Brown focuses on how we can help our kids understand the joy of giving, as well as the pleasure of receiving, and how we can fill the holidays with love, rather than experience a time of regret and emotional emptiness.

“We can all agree that the holidays can bring out the best in us and the worst in us,” said Dr. Brown. “As the big end-of-year holidays approach, it is common to get anxious about how much there is to do, whether we have enough gifts to make everyone happy, and if our celebration of family and religious traditions will go as we hope. Our motives may be the best, but execution can be daunting.”

1. Be intentional. 
Talk to children about giving and charity, how it makes us feel, and what values we are upholding. Whether the heart-to-heart is about giving money or time and energies, research shows that talking with children to help them understand the family and society values associated with giving is important.

2. Think beyond your family. 
Let children know they are part of a community and global citizenship. Ask who has served your family this past year and could use some recognition. Look at where there are people in need locally, nationally and internationally. Could a neighbor use a helping hand or the local food pantry some extra servers?

3. Involve your kids in decision-making. 
Include your children in discussions about to whom something should be given, whether it’s a toy, a dollar, a card, the offer of service or a good word. Simple and sweet can open the heart as much as big and fancy. Think of family and then extend outward. Involving kids in the process of selecting charities or persons to whom they want to give goes a long way toward building a generous spirit.

4. Gift outside the box – literally. 
Consider gifts of experiences rather than just material items. We remember and cherish good times together longer than almost any physical present.

5. Don’t overlook the art of receiving. 
You can help children build their character by learning how to receive gifts gracefully and with gratitude, which is as important as being a caring giver. The holidays are also about receiving. Receiving should be done with an open heart, remembering that the person giving the gift wants to please you and make you feel good.

Dealing with Disappointments Is Part of Learning

According to Dr. Brown, dealing with disappointed expectations during the holidays provides an opportunity to support children’s learning process and emphasize that the holidays are about sharing time with loved ones, not about the size of the gifts. He recommends being present to each other, remembering that children ascertaining how to handle intense feelings is rarely a smooth course, and being tolerant of their mistakes, as you would want them to be of yours. “Emotional honesty goes a long way to healing the wounds of dashed expectations,” commented Dr. Brown.

Opening One’s Heart Helps Shape Character

To build an ethic of caring, commit to emphasizing the power of giving throughout the year, encouraged Dr. Brown. When tensions and expectations are high is not the best time to introduce and ask for or demand new behaviors from kids. If you’re beginning this holiday season, start small. Learning about giving and how to do it from a place of compassion takes an open mind, as well as an open heart, and repeated exposures.

“Avoiding being swept up in societal pressures to dazzle our kids with exciting gifts in pretty packages is one of the biggest challenges for parents during the holiday season,” observed Leigh Ann Errico, CEO & Founder of Wear the Cape & the kidkind foundation. “Teaching children to appreciate non-material blessings all year round helps parents battle expectations for excess.”

Errico, an experienced leadership coach, built Wear the Cape and established the kidkind foundation in 2013 when she identified the need for resources on kindness and character-building that would appeal to her own four children. The idea for the brand was sparked when she observed that the chance to wear a cape—the organization’s logo—motivates children to act like heroes, or “Cape Kids,” in order to live up to the symbol of honor.

Wear the Cape is kicking off its #BetterThanPresents challenge and inviting people of all ages to post a short video on social media sharing what they want this holiday season that money can’t buy, then daring friends and family to do the same. Join in! Include the hashtag #BetterThanPresents when posting your video, and tag your friends and Wear the Cape's Facebook Page.

Learn more about Wear the Cape, at WearTheCapeKids.com.