A different Christmas gift for kids: Part I

In Photo: Empathy starts at home. Developing siblings’ “have your back” attitude is a great start. First photo shows Meagan letting Marcus sit on her lap because there were no more seats on the Osaka Metro. We love visiting their great grandmother. They experience care for elders, as well as gratitude to a noble person. Second photo shows how Marcus loves his “A-tai.” My kids understand my work because they are “participants” and not outsiders. Third photo shows Meagan with me at the Baby Fair in Shanghai. She was sitting on a giant car seat displayed. My husband and I share worthy causes with our kids. The last photo is Meagan and I at a previous “I Can Serve” Foundation benefit.

The day after November 1 usually signals holiday season in our family. We would put up the Christmas tree and I would start organizing our Christmas gifts. One of my treasured traditions is finding gifts for my kids.

Since they were young, I would prepare two gifts. One gift was from my husband and me, while the other gift was from Santa. Our gift to them would be something they like. Some years, my kids would be specific, like in 2015 when they both asked for Nerf blasters. Other years, it would be up to us.

Until they were 8, I would ask them to write a letter to Santa for their Christmas stocking. We would usually spend a part of our holidays in the province. The minute they came back, they would rush to find their gift in the stocking.  They never suspected it was from us.

I try to keep “Santa’s” gifts simple. There was a year that Marcus wanted a robot, so I got him an inexpensive one. There was a year, Meagan did not ask for anything from Santa. I got her a pink brush and mirror set and still saw how happy she was.

This year as I started to think of Christmas gifts for my kids, I challenged myself to give them something “unexpected.”  My kids are 11 and 8 now. They’ve almost outgrown toys except for art and construction toys. I wanted to give them something more substantial.  I wanted to give them gifts that matter.

After much thought, I decided to gift them “value” gifts. I would pick the value I thought would be good to zero in. I would research on these values and do activities throughout this December without them even knowing it. When Christmas comes, I would make them a card or letter, thanking them for the times they actually showed these values.

Why do I want to do this?  I figured I would like to give my kids more “time.” My kids have been very understanding and collaborative with my work. My daughter tries to help out a lot, whether by joining me on business trips, preparing me smoothies, or even helping me proofread my weekly submissions to BusinessMirror. Marcus is my photographer during store checks and is the strict timekeeper in the house.

The first value I chose is empathy. From reading many biographies, I saw how valuable the gift is to be able to “put oneself in another’s shoes.” I also believe that this is a value innate in me, so I would have a better handle on the subject.

I reread Michele Borba’s book UnSelfie this weekend to research more on empathy. Below are some important points I picked up:

  • What kids need to be happy and successful is empathy.
  • Empathy might be perceived as “touchy-feely,” but new research reveals that empathy is far from “soft,” and it plays a surprising role in predicting kids’ happiness and success.
  • Empathy affects our kids’ future health, wealth, authentic happiness, relationship satisfaction and ability to bounce back from adversity. It promotes kindness, social behavior and moral courage, and it is an effective antidote to bullying, aggression, prejudice and racism.
  • Our kids today live in a “self-absorbed craze,” called the “Selfie Syndrome.”
  • Some of the strategies shared by the author include:
  • Share your beliefs
  • Be a role model
  • Hold family debates
  • Develop your “best possible self”
  • Make a virtue scrapbook
  • Write a birthday letter
  • Capture caring moments
  • Teach “Is that me?” tests

Below are some of my plans applying Borbe’s book starting December 1.

  • Weekday vs Weekends Only Screen Time:  On one of our Saturday game nights, I will pose this debate question: two hours screen time all seven days of the week, or four hours of screen time on weekends.
  • Thank You Letter: In one of our one-on-one times, I will ask each of my kids to choose two people to write “Thank You” letters to. On Christmas Day they will also receive a Thank You letter from my husband and me.
  • Get Together Poster-Making Contests: We are hosting a number of parties starting this December. Most of the kids love art. I will have choices of values with definition and ask the kids to make posters of these values they can bring home. I just need to prepare some construction paper, markers and have a toy-air sprayer to make it fun.

Next week I will share another value gift I am preparing for my kids. Happy gift hunting, everyone.


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