Giving,
Not Gifting

With kids in the picture, it's easy to get caught up in the holiday gift-giving hype. But if you'd like to make your holidays a little more meaningful, it is possible. Find a charitable giving project you can do with your children, and you'll both reap the benefits.

Little Girl Holding Christmas Cookies

Most kids gear up for the holidays weeks -- if not months -- in advance. There are gifts to be requested, toys to be scoped out, lists to be written -- it's all about the presents. But does it have to be that way? It's possible to celebrate in "a more meaningful way," says Devin Hermanson, a charitable giving expert and national director of World Vision's Gift Catalog.

The gift catalog

The Gift Catalog puts an entirely new spin on giving. The giver makes a purchase in the name of a friend, family member, or business associate. World Vision then sends special cards to those individuals, describing the gifts -- and their impact. Last year alone, World Vision's Gift Catalog raised $25 million and provided assistance to more than 500,000 people worldwide. It's a simple way to let people know you're thinking of them without contributing to the rampant consumerism that has become the hallmark of this time of year.

Select charity together

There are also other ways to help kids learn about the true spirit of giving. Hermanson suggests that parents spend some time helping their children focus on what they're going to give, rather than what they're going to get. One idea for families is to select a charitable organization to support together during the holiday season. Online tools like Charity Navigator can help locate an appropriate organization. "Give your children a budget and encourage them to decide how your family will donate," Hermanson says.

Lead by example

When you lead by example, your kids will follow. So set an example, says Hermanson, and take your kids with you to volunteer at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. You can take no-sew, do-it-yourself gifts like fleece blankets to donate. You can also have your kids help you bake cookies and deliver them to a local nursing home.

Giving your time to family

It's also important for kids to understand that the holidays are about sharing time with family and creating special memories. Make time for your kids to see their grandparents -- or at least talk on the phone -- and learn more about their history. Recording or writing down stories of the past are gifts you and your family will treasure in the years to come. Hermanson recommends recording stories online through Story Corps.

Help those in your neighborhood

And while it feels good to make a monetary contribution to a recognized charity, you can also look a little closer to home. Do you have neighbors who need help? Whether it's the elderly couple whose driveway needs shoveling or the single mom who could use a mother's helper, you probably have someone on your block who could use a hand. Your family can may be able to offer the lifeline they need during -- and after -- the holiday season.

Of course, there's no reason you can't indulge in some regular gifts as well -- and we have plenty of ideas for everyone on your list. But it's nice to know that with just a few tweaks to your holiday routine, you can return to meaningful giving and help your children understand the true spirit of the holidays.

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