Empathy in action with a family “night” activity

IMG_9720Family nights (or mornings, afternoons or whenever!) with our children are important to us and we try to do something special at least once a week. It need not be fancy or expensive, as long as the family enjoys some time together as we seek to build a strong family identity and close relationships.

With colds passing through the family, we didn’t have the energy for a physical activity the week so we decided to do one of the ideas from those we have been discussing and using to build empathy, compassion and thoughtfulness during our Easter circle time.

Each child was given $2 to spend at a secondhand shop. The catch was that they were not allowed to spend it on themselves. Each person drew the name of another family member out of the hat and endeavoured to find something special for them within their budget. We all helped with spotting good ideas and all purchases had to be approved by Mum and Dad first. (No, our oldest son does not want a Barbie doll!)

While many broad hints are given as to what might be a great idea for themselves, we usually manage to keep most of the gifts a surprise and smuggle them home without the recipient seeing them or at least without them being sure of what they are getting. Each child wraps their gift and we all get together for the presentations.

We took the opportunity for a review of gift giving and receiving etiquette  and how to show thankfulness when receiving a gift, which is so important.

Today our gift exchange morning led to a spate of tidying out desks and wrapping up even more gifts for each other which was lovely to see as these ones really did come from the heart. Those children who’s love language is gift giving were particularly over the moon and were seen dancing about with huge smiles on their faces for the rest of the day.

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Receiving Gifts, Thankfulness and Good Manners

With Christmas in just 2 days I thought it was timely to remind the children about thankfulness and gratefulness for what they are given. We spend a lot of time in the lead up to Christmas focusing on Jesus and the true meaning of the season, discussing how we can bless others and think of others first etc. but we are realistic and know that if there are presents involved, they are usually where the focus and excitement of the young (and not so young!) children will be.

Like many families, our children are very blessed to receive gifts from close and extended family on Christmas day and we want them to enjoy these, but at the same time remember the preciousness of the giver and the importance of showing thankfulness for what they receive.

A friend of mine (thanks Cherub) gave a group of Mothers and I some excellent suggestions a while ago about receiving gifts and how she has taught her children to show good manners and thankfulness when they receive their gifts. She has the child say thank you as they receive their present and take it to sit next to the gift giver to open it. The children know that it is considered good manners to open the card first and read it (or have it read to you) before opening the gift. Once open, they spend a little time looking at and playing with the item as well as thanking the giver with some specific comments before moving on.

I think this is a brilliant idea and we will be endeavouring to encourage our children to go through this process this year. We have talked about what to do and say (or not say!) in a variety of situations including:

  • when they already have the same item at home
  • the kinds of comments they can say to the gift giver once the present is opened
  • the importance of being truthful whilst respecting the thought, time, money and effort that the giver has gone to in order to give them their gifts
  • some tactful ways to respond when the gift is not something they like, want or need. Let’s face it, that happens at times.
  • guarding their facial expressions when they see the gift for the first time
We have perhaps not spent enough time on it to get perfect results, but we are hoping that our family members can take pleasure in the reactions of our children to the gifts they receive and the character that is displayed during this wonderfully exciting season.