As parents, we put a lot of effort, energy, and concern into “making” our children learn to share. Well … this is the season for sharing! What a perfect opportunity for children to discover and assimilate the pleasures and joys that sharing brings.
All childhood development is on a continuum and the art of sharing is no exception. Just as we would not expect a toddler newly walking to keep pace with an adult, we must appreciate where our children fall on the sharing continuum.
You might be familiar with the Toddler Creed that states: “If I want it, it’s mine. If I give it to you and change my mind later, it’s mine. If I can take it away from you, it’s mine. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine. If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine. If it looks just like mine, it is mine.”
Sharing evolves in children from this toddler stronghold, baby step by baby step, through modeling and being treated generously by the adults in their lives. It is not preaching about sharing or demanding our child shares that brings growth and change. It is the way in which we generously interact with our children, our family, our friends, and our neighbors that matters.
That’s why the holiday season lends itself so beautifully for children to witness generosity of spirit. The anticipation,excitement, and delight that a child feels when he’s created or chosen a gift for a special person, wrapped it himself and proudly presented it, reinforces the pure joy one gets from giving.
It is in the fun of inviting friends to a holiday cookie exchange, delivering handmade cards to special neighbors, bringing a chosen food item to put in the community food basket, putting a dollar in the Salvation Army bucket, that spirits grow.
And it is as simple as letting your child help you shovel the walk for the elderly neighbors or overhear you call them and ask if you can pick up something they need at the supermarket on a cold and snowy day. It is through our words and actions, we are showing our child what caring and sharing is about.
As much opportunity as there is during this season for sharing, there is also the flip side that parents tell me about. Lots of relatives will be gathering, lots of cousins, lots of new special toys, and lots of upset children claiming possession.
A good rule of thumb when several children around the same age are present is to give a matching gift to each child, so they can join forces and play together with their new toys. This shared playing will make happy memories and connections.
Parents often tell me about the older child who is constantly fighting with the younger sibling for wrecking his buildings or getting into his stuff. It is helpful to create a safe spot for your oldest to be able to play undisturbed if that’s what he chooses. Otherwise, if he wants to play in the family space, then everyone plays together.
Before company arrives, give your child the opportunity to decide to put away any toy item that she is not ready to share. It is this act of respect for your child and this acknowledgment of ownership that will fill her with the confidence and willingness to share.
So parents, embrace your children at the stage they are at and trust in their developing generous spirits during this holiday season.
On Friday, December 18th, at 9:30 a.m., Family Resources Friday Play Shoppe will be making their quarterly visit to our friends at Bethany St. Joseph’s Care Center. We’ll walk down the halls, visiting residents in their rooms, while the children carry baskets of snowflake greetings to pass out.
It’s a lovely way to share the joy! For more information, give me a call at Family Resources, 784-8125.