sealPurdue News

December 1997

Expert: Use holidays to teach children the joy of giving

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Although giving is a lesson best taught year-round, the holiday season can bring it to the forefront, particularly if one child doesn't understand why another got the newest, coolest toy from Grandma.

Teaching children to feel good about giving is a long process that should begin with talking, says Karen Diamond, associate professor in child development and family studies at Purdue University. She says parents need to explain that giving gifts can make children feel good; it's just a different good feeling from the one children get when they receive gifts.

Diamond says the lessons of giving can begin with everyday hugs and kisses. She suggests that adults explain to children how giving a hug is giving a gift. Let the children know that the receiver of the hug or kiss will feel special, she says.

When children are old enough to walk or draw, encourage them to give small gifts to special people throughout the year, Diamond says. On walks, for example, if your child finds a rock and gives it to you, don't toss it aside because you don't need a rock. Instead, thank the child and keep it in a special place so he or she can see that you value it.

Birthday parties -- for other children --also provide opportunities to learn to give. Parents should explain that everyone has a birthday and will receive gifts on their special day. Diamond says most preschoolers do not fully understand the calendar year, so it may take extra patience and understanding to help them feel good about giving a gift they may want to keep.

School-age children are beginning to understand about annual events, but Diamond says it is important to keep talking to them about the importance of giving. If a child is disappointed, acknowledge the child's feelings and sympathize with him or her. "You should say things like, 'I know Bobby got such and such toy -- I bet you would like to have one like it. Let's see if we can remember some of the things you got for your birthday,'" Diamond says.

Parents also can teach children the value of giving by helping them make gifts for others. They will be excited about the gift; in fact, Diamond cautions, a child may get so excited that he or she will tell the receiver about the gift before the occasion.

CONTACT: Diamond (765) 494-0942

Compiled by Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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