PARENTING: Helping kids focus on gratitude and giving

By Dr. Lindsey Balderaz

The most wonderful time of year, Christmas, can also be a time of stress and overwhelming demand. As our society has shifted into a materialistic, consumer driven economy, we often spend a majority of the holiday season being inundated with commercials, spending money, and thinking of what we want or need to be gifted.

This insatiable need for more, more, more, can create a lack mindset in our children, leading them to believe that they do not already have enough or that they are owed more simply because of the season.

When children begin focusing heavily on what they do not have, what they want, and what they lack, it often comes with the heavy price of being ungrateful for what they already have.

Over time, this type of “lack” mindset can become toxic for kids. It can lead a child to never be fully satisfied with life as-is, and have a constant need for something different. Ultimately this dissatisfaction creates a cycle of unhappiness.

So how do we break the cycle, before it creates deep seeded feelings of lack?

Helping kids focus on the world outside of them, what others need, and how they can serve and give love to others, is a great way to shift away from the self-centered practices of asking for and receiving gifts, and become tuned in to giving. Starting a tradition of saving money to donate to a charity, serving at a local nonprofit organization, or donating new toys to others in need, are some examples of how to get your child into the spirit of giving and service.

Additionally, embedding times in your daily routine to discuss what you are grateful for and encouraging your child to think about and share what they are grateful for helps keep your mind in a space of thanksgiving, rather than lack. This can be done during family prayer time, at the dinner table while eating, or even in the car on the way home from school. Reserve a special time of day for the discussion of gratitude and thanksgiving and see how your family’s focus shifts from what you need, to all the wonderful gifts you already have.

Lindsey Balderaz, PhD, is an assistant professor of special education in the Department of Literacy, Language, and Special Populations College of Education at the University of Texas Permian Basin.