Many children correlate the Holiday Season as "'Tis the Season for Getting," but here in Bergen County we strive to teach our children "'Tis the Season of Giving." It's our responsibility to teach the importance of giving back and what that term truly means. It doesn't end with giving away old toys that you don't play with anymore or hand-me-downs of clothes too worn or out of style. It's about making a difference in your community and the luxury of being able to do so.
Service doesn't consist of only donating money, so giving back can start at any age. I begin teaching the lessons of service to each of my children at age 5. At this age, I feel that each can understand the purpose of donating not only money, but giving their time. CC and I were both born and raised in the inner city, so we know to be thankful for what we have. Our children, however, are raised in a community where I know I have to teach the importance of service, and to be thankful. From packing dinners in November to donating to the toy drive in December, I like to teach my children that the best gift they can give to themselves is to give back.
Giving doesn't have to stop with the holiday season; it can be a yearly commitment. Within the Sabathia family, the kids collect loose change all year long, which they place in a water jug. Anytime the kids get tooth fairy money, birthday money or allowance, I leave it their personal choice to decide what portion they will give to others. This summer, my nephews decided to donate all of their earnings, which was a great lesson for my children.
In December, we count the money we've set aside, and the family votes on a charity of choice to give the money to. We give to what's important to us, which is our PitCCh In Foundation, which promotes self- esteem to inner city youth. The foundation teaches children that they can follow their hopes and dreams regardless of their circumstances. From the backpack giveaway in September to the Christmas Caravan in December, the Sabathia children are volunteering.
Birthdays are a great way of turning getting into giving. Who doesn't get multiple toys from birthday parties? This is a chance to donate some of the multiples. As the kids get older and have teen parties, they may ask for a donation instead of a gift.
Where to Give
When giving, choose a place that you and your family feel passionate about. If your child is an animal lover, look into taking a tour of the local animal shelter and donating there, so they can see where their money is making a difference. Maybe he or she also wants to volunteer at the shelter. Teens have their own groups to choose from. Working together to make a difference keeps the involvement rate high. From the American Red Cross to Bergen Family Center, you can find a place to serve.
As we concentrate on giving and service, one must not forget the importance of being thankful. During the holiday season we reflect on the year. I believe being thankful is an important lesson to teach the family. Teaching respect among siblings and being nice to each other starts in the home. I hear my four children fight over the TV remote, who sits where and who was the first to finish their food. (Everything seems to be a competition among siblings!) I can now laugh at this, but when hearing it, I stress the importance of love and how thankful we are to have each other. Teaching children to be thankful for family is just as important as being thankful for the community.
I hope my tips help with having a "season for giving!" Please remember I'm not an expert who is? I'm just a mom of four who wants you to know you're not alone. We've all gone through it and we can go through it together.
Helpful Websites for Youth Volunteers
Amber is a mother of four, executive director and co-founder of PitCCh In Foundation and creator/designer of CCandy.