Do away with mindless materialism and bring the true spirit of the season into your home.
Growing up, whenever we received a gift, my mother made certain we wrote a thank you note. After Christmas, there were deadlines, all notes needed to be written before we went back to school. At times, it was hard work. It was never enough to say “Dear Grandmother, thank you for the gift.”. The note needed to be more personal and thoughtful. Interestingly, no matter how young or busy we were, my mother provided the stationary but she never wrote the note for us.
Children and teenagers learn what they are taught. Authors Nolte and Harris have stated in their book – Teenagers Learn What They Live, “the way we live our lives, the choices we make, how we spend our time, and especially the quality of our relationships are the most powerful legacy we pass on to the next generation.” Experts call it, “observational learning“. As parents, that’s a bit scary! We need to be mindful that children and teens take their cues from us. They are always watching. So when it comes to giving thanks, what are we modelling? Although it is important to write thank you cards and remind our children to say thank you, there is more we can do. This holiday season and beyond, if we really want to teach our children to be grateful, consider these five behaviours and habits that we need to model ourselves.
As parents, we need to make a point of giving thanks. Do our children hear us give thanks to our helper for dinner? Do we thank the doorman for holding the door? The taxi driver for being helpful? It doesn’t always have to be addressed to people. Sometimes, it’s about displaying an “attitude of gratitude” towards the things that are around us. Try to voice your appreciation of the natural beauty of Hong Kong, the beaches and the hiking trails and let your children observe this.
Serving the community and helping those in need can be a tremendous way to instil gratitude. As a family, consider participating in beach clean-ups, getting to know your neighbours or going abroad to build a school. You may also wish to consider doing random acts of kindness to strangers.
Cultivate a heart for the poor. What do you do when you walk past a homeless person? Do you talk about the experience with your children? These are wonderful starting points for conversations. Consider going on a Kindness Walk with Impact Hong Kong. This is a great opportunity to see how others in Hong Kong live and discover how you can participate.
It doesn’t always have to be about money. Go through outgrown books, toys and clothing with your children and together give them away to someone in need. Become familiar with organisations who work with refugee and asylum seekers like Christian Action, befriend a less-privileged family, donate your time to help with an NGO.
There are many organisations in Hong Kong that can help parents model benevolence. One year we felt a bit overwhelmed after Christmas, with my daughter’s birthday fast approaching in early January, and we wondered if she would consider something different. At the age of eight, she was keen. That year, included with the birthday invitations, was a request list of items for a Disaster Relief Kit for Crossroads and instead of presents, guests brought specific items for distribution. After the party, my daughter enjoyed counting towels, toothbrushes, soaps, etc. It was moving and rewarding, for her and us, to watch her give the gifts directly to the staff, knowing they were going to a great cause and to people in another country who really needed them.
As parents, we need to be intentional in what we are modelling and communicating to our children and teens. It is important that we cultivate a thankful and grateful heart. Perhaps, it is the best antidote to entitlement. One thing to remember is that Christmas is about giving, not receiving. As we consider what we are giving to our families this year, perhaps what should be at the top of our list is gifting our children a true spirit of gratitude.