Altruism means acting out of concern towards another person’s well-being. When people see others in a desperate situation, usually they feel that they need to help them. Sometimes, this may occur at the expense of the person trying to help. Nonetheless, if a person is truly being altruistic, they will disregard their own needs to help others without expecting anything in return. Thus, altruistic people do things because they want to help and not because they feel obliged to do so.
Such a characteristic may not come naturally to everyone. Christmas is the perfect time to support your children in becoming more altruistic. Use this season to teach them about the joy of giving to others. Christmas is not just about receiving gifts but also about being kind to others. The following are some ideas of how this can be achieved.
Making presents – Whilst Christmas shopping can be a fun family experience, making presents for other people can be more meaningful. Help your children to make Christmas cards and gifts themselves which can be given to family members. Some examples include: making ornaments which can be hung on the Christmas tree, picture frames and creative paintings. Doing so will help children to focus on the true meaning of Christmas rather than its consumerism.
Being grateful – Take time to stop and reflect about the positive things in your life. Be thankful for what you have and encourage your children to do the same. When they receive a gift, discuss how lucky they are that another person thought of them. Children need to learn to appreciate what other people do for them. Take turns to open the presents and do it when everyone is gathered together. Slowing down the process allows them to actually appreciate what they receive and gives them a chance to express that appreciation to the giver.
Volunteering – As a family seek out opportunities to volunteer and engage within the community. Schools, the local parish and other organisations frequently need assistance from volunteers. Use Christmas as an opportunity to start new traditions where you use your time for the benefit of others. Afterwards, take the time to discuss with your children what they learnt from such an experience and how they felt being of service to other people.
Giving – Help your children to make a list of gifts they would like to donate and to whom. This will nicely balance out their wish list and therefore make them realise that life is also about giving and not just receiving. Gifts can also be in the form of helping others. Children can make vouchers which can be redeemed by their parents, siblings and other people. Some examples include: reading to a younger sibling, making their parents’ bed and taking out the trash.
Visiting the elderly – Christmas can be a lonely period if one has nobody to spend it with. Charity starts at home, so if there is anyone in your family whom you have not visited in a long while, then pay them a visit. You can also get together with other families and go carolling at a nursing home and spend some time talking to the elderly.
Make this Christmas count and teach your children to think of others. Altruism is the best source of happiness.
Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.