How to Use the Holiday Spirit to Instill Meaningful Values in Children

holiday valuesAs Thanksgiving approaches, hearts are filled with warmth and the spirit of giving. It’s a time to cherish moments with loved ones and reflect on all of life’s positive aspects. While it’s common for families to focus on turkey feasts and football games this time of year, there’s a deeper layer that is often overlooked — the opportunity to instill meaningful values in children.

This holiday season is the perfect time to nurture your little one’s empathy, generosity, compassion and gratitude.

Here are four ways, suggested by Joy Turner, Kiddie Academy Educational Child Care vice president of education, that parents can seize the holiday spirit and inspire it year round.

Discuss the Reason for the Season

Amid the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, it’s easy to forget the true meaning behind celebrations like Thanksgiving. Take some time this year to discuss what really makes this season special — quality time with loved ones and meaningful traditions.

Consider holiday traditions you loved as a child and how you can share them with your own family. Maybe there’s a special recipe, craft or family outing that you always looked forward to. You can also use the occasion to create new traditions — this is a great opportunity to connect your children to their culture and family and foster a deeper sense of self.

Conversations and traditions can help children understand the historical, cultural and familial significance of holidays while creating cherished memories and an appreciation for the season.

Encourage Acts of Kindness

Encouraging children to perform acts of kindness is a great way to teach compassion and empathy.

Try striking up a family conversation about different ways you can show thoughtfulness to others, and invite your children to be active participants. After discussing, challenge them to put their ideas into action — it can be as simple as sharing their toys with siblings or friends or making homemade cards for a local nursing home. Including little ones in the planning process and acting on their ideas ignites a desire to help others and provides a great way to unite and make a difference as a family.

Alternately, reach out to organizations or charities that need extra help during this season and ask how your young child can support their cause. Family Promise and Meals on Wheels are two examples of national organizations to get involved with.

Fostering these practices of kindness builds children’s self-esteem and instills values that will last far beyond the holiday season.

Redefine Gift Giving

Inspire your children to actively participate in the gift-giving process, which doesn’t always have to include a physical object such as a toy or a gift.

Giving can also involve discovering methods to bring joy to others through acts of kindness. For example, teach your children that they can display generosity by helping someone build their block tower or soothing a friend who’s sad.

Inviting your child to participate in these types of kind gestures will instill empathy and emphasize the significance and impact that performing acts of kindness can have on others.

Practice Gratitude

Conversations of gratitude are often put off until families are gathered around the Thanksgiving table. Instead, try to make it a daily activity. Use this Thanksgiving — and the entire holiday season – to kick off a family thankfulness practice.

One simple way to do this is by making gratitude jars with your little ones:

  • Collect empty jars or containers around your home and decorate them with any craft items you can find: stickers, tissue paper, magazine clippings, popsicle sticks, buttons or even photos. Don’t forget to include a lid with an opening.
  • Next, cut paper slips that fold small enough to fit through the opening.
  • Once your container is complete, set your gratitude process. Consider keeping the jar on your children’s nightstands to develop an easy pre-bedtime activity.
  • Encourage your children to write down one thing they are thankful for each day and add it to their jar.

This custom helps children develop an attitude for gratitude and appreciation for all that they have in life. Over time, the practice will become a valuable habit that will continue to serve your children long after the holiday feasts have been eaten.