Time to Reset: Teaching Kids about Generosity
Dr. Tara Cousineau is a clinical psychologist, mother, and Aunt. She is founder of BodiMojo.com for teenagers, a health engagement platform for teens leveraging web and mobile technologies to inspire healthy living. The use of BodiMojo.com by teen girls has shown to have a significant effect on improving girls’ attitudes about their own body image. Tara also blogs at BodiMojo.com/blog and TeensInBalance.com.
Every year it seems that consumerism has more of a stranglehold on the kids—and us. Just the other day, I overheard a recent Skype chat. My darling niece asked her cousin, my daughter, “So, whatcha going to buy on Black Friday?” They are 12. Like, seriously? Since when is Black Friday a holiday?
I’m all for spurring the economy, getting a good deal, and some retail therapy from time to time (scarves and hats are my vice), but when the youngins think of shopping instead of giving thanks, I think we need to push some sort of societal reset button. Apparently, there is a group of do-gooders way ahead of me on that one: the founders of Giving Tuesday.
Giving Tuesday (www.givingtuesday.org) is a brilliant antidote to the shop-‘til-you-drop addiction fueled by retailers’ onslaught marketing about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday, November 27, is all about taking a step back and reflecting on generosity and doing something about it. According to the organizers, Giving Tuesday is a simple idea: Find a way for your family, your community, and your school to join in acts of giving. They are inviting all of us to join a national celebration of our great tradition of generosity.
Imagine the power of kids to help make this a huge success? It’s certainly a great topic for discussion around the dinner table. What if you gave each of your nieces $10 or $20 or a Spread Joy Gift Card and said, “This is for you to donate to a cause or charity.” You have all day to think about it and come back with your ideas.”
And it may just rub off of the motley mix of grownups sitting around the feast, too.
And here’s the thing: kids don’t need money to do good. They need to feel inspired and empowered to help others—and it starts in one’s family and neighborhood.
Here's where Aunties can really step in as role models. Parents do this strange thing of wanting to protect their children from all that’s terrible in the world. But in fact, it’s important for children to see poverty, the homeless, illness, and consequences of war, visit an animal shelter or plant a garden. Kids are naturals at empathy, but the business of the world and the need to achieve often chips away at such intuitive inclinations. They need to be curious and ask questions, and we can foster their empathy. Children need to feel connected to the world in which they live (i.e., not be the center of it but an ambassador in it). The more they are holistically involved in the act of giving, the better.
It’s pretty simple, too. Take your nieces or nephews and offer to help an elderly neighbor with her grocery shopping or even just carry the food into the house for her. Visit a soup kitchen. Clear out clothes that no longer fit and bring them to Goodwill. Need more ideas? Check out: Ideas for Families at GivingTuesday.org.
And here's the bonus: the act of giving and being grateful makes people feel better. There is plenty of science to back this up. Since my work is all about inspiring youth to be their best selves—in mind, body and spirit, I’m big on backing up wellness with good science. For instance, there is plenty of research now that shows an “attitude of gratitude” and acts of kindness are linked to better health. When people show generosity and gratitude, they feel happier, have less anxiety, get better sleep, are nicer to others, show less aggression, and have stronger immune systems. Of course, who needs science to back up the wisdom of the ages? We do because now we have Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And Hanukkah, Christmas, Easter, and Halloween are more about getting things than giving them.
Yes, we all need a reset from time to time. Giving Tuesday is one way to do that.
Checkout Giving Tuesday to learn more and then share it with your little loved ones!
Ways to Volunteer, Give and Learn About Generosity:
-Give Kids the World
-Greater Good Science Center
Published: November 26, 2012