Teaching Children Empathy During the Holidays – December 2008

The holidays are an exciting time of year for children. They can also be a great time of year to help teach children empathy.

   According to Samantha Stern, training and development director at Ebenezer Child Care Centers, “There are many opportunities during the holidays to teach children about how to spread holiday cheer and how to assist others who are less fortunate.

Making Holiday Cards

Everybody knows that children love to create art projects, and Stern says making holiday cards for those who are less fortunate can be a great way to teach children how their creativity can spread joy and happiness.

Stern suggests sending homemade cards to elderly neighbors, people who help your family on a regular basis, and wounded military personnel. The Red Cross has volunteers who will be distributing cards to wounded military service men and women at various medical facilities across the country this season. If your family wants to sends cards, make sure they are postmarked before December 22 to:  We Support You During Your Recovery! c/o American Red Cross, P.O. Box 419, Savage, MD 20763-0419.

Stern also suggests that you check with area nursing homes. Many welcome cards and homemade holiday decorations to brighten the rooms of their elderly residents.

Giving Tree

Sterns adds that many churches, non-profits, and department stores have giving trees set up during this time of year to help those who are less fortunate in the community. Giving trees generally have slips of paper on them with a child’s sex, age, and something they would like for the holidays.

According to Stern, this is a great way to teach your children empathy. “Select children who are the same sex and ages as your children, so they can help pick out special gifts for these children who aren’t as fortunate as they are.”

Clean Out Your Closets

In preparation for the new gifts your children will be receiving over the holidays, Stern says another great way to teach your children empathy is to encourage them to clean out their closets, and donate the items they no longer want to a local shelter or organization that works with poor families. Taking your children with to make the donation will help teach them to appreciate the things they have and understand that there are many others in the world who are not as fortunate as they are.

Another way to reiterate this concept is to take your children grocery shopping and have them pick out the ingredients for their favorite meal. After you purchase these items, take them to a local food pantry, so a family that is hungry can enjoy a warm meal courtesy of your family.

“Despite the tough economy, we all have something to be thankful for,” says Stern. “Your role as a parent is to teach your children to understand this and to embrace helping others during this season of caring.”