The holidays aren’t just about receiving gifts. You and I know that, but do your Scouts?
Probably, but by taking advantage of some teachable moments during the holidays, you can reinforce this spirit of giving in your Scouts and Venturers.
The tips below come from Denise Daniels, a parenting and child-development expert who has a wealth of helpful advice for parents at her website.
I like that Denise’s tips don’t force-feed the “attitude of gratitude.” Instead, the ideas involve young people in ways that promote compassion and empathy by helping others in need.
Visit a toy store
You shouldn’t have trouble persuading your Scout to join you on a trip to the toy store.
But instead of picking out something for himself, have your child choose a toy to donate for a kid of the same age.
The toy may be the only gift this young person receives, so your Scout’s choice is important.
Prepare a meal together
Have your Scout/Venturer suggest a meal you can make together. Or better yet, get a bunch of Scouts and Venturers together to make a meal.
Then deliver it as a group to a homeless shelter or food bank. Be sure to let them know you’ll be stopping by.
Organize a coat drive
Provide warm clothing for those less fortunate during the winter months by organizing a coat drive.
Or if this is too much, have your Scout or Venturer select a coat to donate. Be sure to explain the value of their donation — not in dollars but in kindness — and have them go with you to the donation center.
Send a card to the Armed Forces
This is one for the whole group. That group can be your family, Cub Scout den or pack, Boy Scout patrol or troop, Venturing crew, Varsity team, Sea Scout ship, Explorer post — you get the idea.
A holiday card has special meaning to men and women in the Armed Forces who are thousands of miles away from their families during the holiday season.
Make handmade cards and mail them together. The Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program has changed this year, so read more here. Or send the card(s) directly to a soldier you or someone in the unit knows.
Whip up a batch of your famous gingerbread cookies and share them with an elderly neighbor who might be alone for long stretches during the holidays.
Be sure your Scout or Venturer joins you when you deliver them. Your neighbor will appreciate seeing a young, friendly face.
Words matter. Tell the people around you what makes them special and why they mean so much to you.
Your Scout or Venturer will notice the act and emulate it.
Choose a charity to support as a family
Hold a family meeting to choose a charity everyone would like to support. Or do the same thing with your den or pack.
For Boy Scouts, the patrol leaders’ council should make this call.
At whatever level, the key is involving the Scouts/Venturers in the decision-making. If they find a charity that tugs at their heart, they’re more likely to participate.
Remember to be grateful
Teach young children to say “please” and “thank you.” For older children, writing thank-you notes shows them how to demonstrate their gratitude to the gift-giver.
Share positive stories
At the dinner table with your family or during a Cubmaster’s or Scoutmaster’s minute with your Scouts, share positive stories about giving that appear on the news or in magazines during the holiday season.
You’ll find some of these stories in Boys’ Life and Scouting magazines!
Be a good neighbor
Invite a neighbor who is alone to join your family for a meal or for some egg-nog and cookies.
As a Scout unit, invite the “neighbors” (people who live or work near where your Scout unit meets) to a holiday party.
Sing some carols
Take your Scouts to a nursing home or hospital to sing carols for the residents.
Don’t worry if your Scouts are better at carrying backpacks than a tune. It’s the thought that counts.
[Your tip here]
What other ways can you get Scouts in the spirit of giving? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo: Cub Scouts visit the Naval Hospital for Christmas, ca. 1952. Some rights reserved by Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections