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Make Giving Back Part Of Holidays
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Traditions are a big part of what makes the holidays special, and being thankful and giving back to others less fortunate are holiday traditions many parents want to instill in their children.
Dr. Tom Carskadon, psychology professor at Mississippi State University, said parents can use traditions to help children realize Christmas is a time of giving, removing the emphasis on getting.
"You don't want the celebration of Christmas to be about greed," Carskadon said. "Help your children think about what they want to give, and how they can express love and cause delight in someone else."
Volunteering for charitable causes is a popular holiday activity. Nationwide, about 93 million people volunteer each year to improve their communities and country.
Bettye Wadsworth, Extension leadership development specialist, said the work of volunteers is diverse, but the reward of internal satisfaction is the same for everyone.
"Potential volunteers must perceive a reason for becoming involved," Wadsworth said. "Achievement, even on a small scale, leads to a feeling of success and is a major factor in sustaining volunteer efforts."
Carskadon said family traditions are very important as they are tangible expressions of love and security. Involve children in creating and keeping traditions that are unique to the family.
"If children help create the tradition, they will own it for a lifetime," Carskadon said.
Traditions can become part of holiday rituals, or can be totally separate. Such a tradition can be as simple as one family member each week getting to choose where the family eats out one night or it can be a particular activity the family does together.
"Traditions give us something to look forward to and ensure there is meaning at certain times," Carskadon said. "Traditions are often passed from parents to children, and from grandparents to grandchildren. Their longevity is due to the satisfaction they give that one generation wants to pass on to another."
Dr. Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with the MSU Extension Service, said good traditions can be simple, nonstressful and adaptable.
"Teach children to be willing to adapt traditions to keep up with change," Davis said. "Some holiday traditions are not as easy to keep when children get older as they used to be."
Traditions help strengthen families by creating bonds and a sense of belonging in children.
"With times so uncertain, maintaining traditions can be a useful tool in giving children stability," Davis said.
Get children involved in forming and participating in the tradition to make it more meaningful to them. Davis referred to one family's Thanksgiving tradition of writing something for which they are thankful on the plain white tablecloth at their place at the table. Each year at Thanksgiving, the family adds to the list.
Each holiday season offers many opportunities for parents and children to do things together for the benefit of others and that strengthen their family ties.