A Change of FOCUS
Story by ML Ball
Cue the Christmas carols! Light the menorah! Get in line for your Santa photo! Shop til you drop! Every holiday season, we allow ourselves and our kids to get caught up in the exhausting frenzy, counting the days until the over-commercialized madness is over.
Does it have to be this way? No!
Is there an alternative…a way we can teach our children to give rather than receive…to think of others rather than just themselves? Yes!
Holidays are the perfect opportunity to teach kids about giving by doing. Sometimes subtlely, sometimes openly, the holidays encourage kids to focus on themselves and material things, such as the latest video game, doll, sneakers or jewelry. It can easily be all about “what you’re going to get.” And we as adults often play into it. How often do we ask children what they want for the holidays, what they’re going to ask Santa to bring them?
Instead, what if we reset the narrative?
What if we said to our kids, “This year, we’re going to spend two hours making someone happy. We’re going to give and not think about receiving. We’re going to find people who have less than we do, who are hungry, or lonely, and we’re going to do something meaningful for them and with them.”
It calls for a change in focus. The age of your child doesn’t matter. For a toddler or a teenager, there are endless opportunities right here in the Hudson Valley to do something for others, to brighten someone’s day, to bring a smile.
To spark some ideas, here are some suggestions for selfless acts of kindness you and your child can do together:
Bake some cookies and take them to a local homeless shelter.
Take a deck of cards to a senior center and play games with the residents.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen serving a meal.
Choose toys, games and puzzles that your child no longer plays with and share them with kids in a local hospital.
Find outgrown clothes and donate them to the United Way or Salvation Army for others who need them.
The greatest gift: compassion for others. What will your child get out of this experience? Hopefully, the joy of giving and not expecting anything in return. Added bonus: a new awareness of, and gratitude for, what they have.
What will you get out of it? Feeding the hungry, visiting the lonely or bringing a smile to a senior hopefully will get you too to slow down, enter someone else’s world and put the holiday shopping on pause, if only for two hours. That’s a gift in itself.
One last thought. Why stop when the holidays are over? Consider making this an ongoing routine with your child,
not a December one-off. Once a month, twice a year, whatever you decide.
No telling how big a difference a little time can make.