Mindful Gift Giving in Families Shapes Children’s Values

Gift giving is a traditional practice in most families. On special occasions throughout the year, and especially during the holiday season, children are faced with gift-giving decisions that will shape their lifelong values about giving.

If we look beyond the external act of giving gifts, research in child development tells us something important about what happens in children’s internal worlds when they give to others. The gift-giving process helps shape their identities.

What are you doing to help your children and teens find meaning through their gift-giving experiences? How does gift giving support your family values? These are great questions to discuss as a family!

Why is Gift Giving Important?

Understanding the importance of gift giving is the first step to mindful giving. Children associate their birthdays and the holiday season with being receivers of gifts. But according to studies in human development, it is gift giving that reaps the biggest psychological rewards. Why?

  1. Gift giving builds empathy. To give meaningful gifts, children must put themselves in others’ shoes to imagine “what would be meaningful to someone else?”
  2. Gift giving shows others you care. Positive relationships are built upon caring and respect. Even a simple card or electronic message with a note of encouragement is viewed as a gift by the recipient.
  3. Gift giving is an act of kindness. Being kind to others improves a family’s and a community’s quality of life.
  4. Gift giving increases well-being. Devoting personal resources on behalf of others has been found to be one of the most important predictors of satisfaction and well-being.

Discover the Meaning of Gift Giving Through Action

What values does your family hold about gift giving? How do you express those values?

Parents can help children and teens realize the internal rewards of giving by teaching them how to give back during the holidays and throughout the year.

Set a time to talk together as a family about your gift-giving values and how to put them into action. Families are often so busy during the holidays that it’s easy to go through the motions of gift gifting without connecting to the deeper meaning of giving. Yet it is these deep connections that shape children’s identities, that teach them the gift of giving. Yahoo.com presented that the act of giving gift is one of the traditions that starts with the family.

Family projects that involve giving to those in need can be turned into powerful lessons that teach compassion, empathy, and meaning to children. By adolescence, young people have the capacity to think and act independently from their parents – to give conscious attention to and become passionate about giving. Whatever your gift-giving traditions, it is important to revisit how your thinking has changed, and how you might want to adapt your traditions.

Make children part of the dialog on gift giving. Engage their ideas and allow them to strategize with you. Studies show that when youth learn about and participate in active giving during childhood and adolescence, the internal benefits last a lifetime.

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