Happy Holidays Come From the Heart

The other afternoon while my husband and I were having lunch at a local restaurant, I overheard the conversation going on at a table near us. A woman and her eight- or nine-year-old granddaughter were discussing the holidays

Happy Holidays Come From the HeartThe other afternoon while my husband and I were having lunch at a local restaurant, I overheard the conversation going on at a table near us. A woman and her eight- or nine-year-old granddaughter were discussing the holidays, and the grandmother was explaining that this is the time of year when we think about others who are less fortunate than we are. A gentleman sitting nearby got up to leave, and stopped by their table on his way out. He told them he was so impressed by their conversation that he had just paid their bill!

There’s so much wonderful going on in that little scene, isn’t there? I love that the grandmother was sharing such an important message with her granddaughter. I love the kindness and generosity of the gentleman. And I love that a woman who is clearly a “giver” was in this case the “giftee” of a beautiful surprise (she was shocked, but so grateful)! In the midst of shopping madness, wish lists, and parking lot feuds, that moment right there showed the true meaning of the holidays. This of all seasons is the time to teach young children an “attitude of gratitude”—which will give them the gift of emotional intelligence (EQ) skills to last them their whole lives.

EQ is the process by which children learn to recognize and manage their emotions. Decades of scientific and empirical research show that learning EQ skills in childhood is associated with numerous important life outcomes, including social competence, academic success, and physical and psychological health and well-being. It’s never too early to begin teaching your children EQ skills like empathy, generosity, respect, and tolerance—and now is the perfect time to start.

Show children that the holidays are about so much more than getting gifts.

We can teach kids compassion and empathy skills by helping others in need. Doing these things as a family shows children that giving is as much fun as receiving!

  • Visit a toy store and have your child choose a toy to donate for a child of the same age.
  • Prepare a meal together and deliver it together to a homeless shelter or food bank.
  • Host or participate in a coat drive to provide warm clothing for those who need them during the dangerously cold winter months.
  • Make handmade holiday cards for men and women in the military serving overseas, far from their families—they’ll love getting a little piece of home!
  • Lead by example. You can teach children empathy and compassion by modeling those behaviors.
  • Invite a neighbor who is alone to join your family for a meal or for some eggnog and cookies.
  • Tell the people around you what makes them special and why they mean so much to you.
  • Hold a family meeting to choose a charity you would all like to support.
  • Teach young children to say “please” and “thank you.” For older children, writing thank-you notes teaches them how to demonstrate their gratitude to the gift-giver.

Give your children face time.

It’s wonderful to be looking outward and thinking of others—but kids also need your focused attention. Here’s how you can do both.

  • Share your personal stories about giving over the years.
  • Read positive stories about giving that appear on the news or in magazines during the holiday season.
  • Showcase the spirit of the season and the importance of family through activities such as going ice-skating, baking cookies together and decorating your home for the holidays.

In my decades of working with children around the globe, I’ve learned that feelings are truly universal—and that when children grasp such essential concepts as empathy and generosity, they are off to a positive start in life. ’Tis the season for giving and sharing, so why not start sharing these EQ skills with your children today!

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About Denise

About DeniseDenise Daniels is a Peabody award-winning broadcast journalist, parenting and child development expert and author who specializes in the social and emotional development of children.

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