Rice balls, my grandfather’s infamous bunny ears at Easter time, an orange in my Christmas stocking, day-long Sunday family meals, cutting the Torrone candy, pulling the tag off a Christmas tree for a family in need at our local grocery. Although some of these things may make no sense to you, these are just a few of my favorite childhood traditions.
Traditions create beautiful, unique memories. From childhood we look forward to our traditions and count on them throughout the year. We pass them down to our children and share them with our spouses and friends. When looking back at some of my favorite traditions, I realized that most of them have something to do with giving, whether it be giving the gift of food (I’m Italian, of course there is food involved), love, or unforgettable moments. This is why traditions around giving are extremely important. These are five easy giving traditions you can implement this year.
Number 1. As summer comes to a close, it is time to go “school shopping” for a new backpack and the list of supplies needed for the upcoming year. As you’re shopping, have your children pick out a backpack and fill it with the same list of supplies for a child going back to school who can’t afford a backpack and school supplies. This simple act gets your children involved in giving. It also teaches them the value of the backpack and supplies you are purchasing for them (because many children aren’t aware that having a backpack and supplies for school is a privilege), all while empowering them to help others.
Number 2. Have a summer BBQ and instead of asking your guests to bring a potato salad, juice boxes, beer etc, ask your guests to bring an item for a charity that you support. Together with your children, come up with a creative donations display. It will be fun for them to help you create it and watch it evolve as donations are added. For example, you could create book shelves with crates and fill the shelves with new books you ask your guests to bring for donation.
Number 3. A child’s birthday is an exciting time. Each year they pick out a theme, make their guest list and can’t wait for the goody bags. We take for granted that every child has the opportunity to have a birthday party but the reality is many can’t afford one. When you and your child are picking out the paper cups, plates, napkins, balloons and cake ingredients get an extra set and create a “birthday box” for a child. Make their birthday wish come true.
Number 4. As winter approaches and you and your children are in need of new winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves take a moment to think about the children who can’t afford these items. You could donate last year’s gently used winter attire, purchase something new, or do both! Our children grow out of their coats. That coat will keep another child warm this winter.
Number 5. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year! BUT one of my least favorite activities is taking my children to the grocery store to get all of the items I need to make my Thanksgiving dinner. Make two lists this year. Give one to your children and as you go through the grocery store have them shop their list while you shop yours. The items on their list will be donated to the local food bank. Your children will take pride in knowing they shopped for the meal and helped another family celebrate Thanksgiving. You could even go one step further and make the time to drive to the food bank with your children. They can put the grocery bags either in the bins or ask a representative to weigh them. It is fun for the children to see how much their grocery donation weighs and then maybe next year you try to top the weight.
By making giving a tradition in your home you demonstrate through action what it means to help others. Each one of the traditions I mentioned opens the door to a valuable conversation with your children. When we lecture our children, they most often tune us out. However, if we can involve them in charitable actions in simple and fun ways, we are simultaneously teaching them about the world and making them excited to take part in making it a better place. If you think about it, the impact is huge. By participating in these traditions, our children can’t help but learn the value of helping others. They then can take these lessons and pass them down to their children. Let’s teach our children to be an inspiration to others and to share the privileges they have in their life. The value of this is priceless. What giving traditions will you start this year?