To help you step into the holiday spirit and remember its real meaning, I’d like to share a short video called “A Recipe of Care” with you; and then I’d like to share some tips on how we can teach our children to give with care and how giving can help their physical and emotional well-being.
As we teach our young ones to cook up this type of recipe and serve it to all those they meet, we create a more heart-fulfilled holiday season. I hope this simple and uplifting message will touch your heart and add inspiration throughout your holiday season. Click on the video to watch it’s just 43 seconds long.
Teaching Children to Give
In addition to asking children what they want for Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa or other holiday, try asking, “What do you want to give?” Holiday gift giving can be a good opportunity and first step in teaching children to give of themselves. Here are some helpful tips:
- Help children explore ideas on what they can give to grandparents, sisters, brothers, or the other parent – something they can make or can afford to purchase. Talk about how simple things can make great gifts, a special jar of jam or a picture they drew, for instance. Emphasize that it’s the care that goes into gift giving, rather than the cost of the gift that’s important. The care in considering what another person might like or dislike, choosing a simple gift (or making one), and presenting it from the heart, makes all the difference.
- After decisions are made, check in with your children on how they’re doing – either in creating a homemade gift or in shopping. Just like adults, children can become overly concerned about whether their gift will be the right one and then become frustrated. On the other hand, they may not be able to find or create the gift they’d imagined. If a gift idea needs re-thinking, that’s okay, but in your conversation with the child, put the emphasis on “the spirit of giving” rather than coming up with the perfect gift. Help your children, but it is best not to make or buy the gifts they will give. That robs them of the experience of caring and giving. Your own attitude about giving and your example will do more than anything else to help your children become the type of people you hope they will become.
- It’s up to you to create an emphasis in your family on giving to those less fortunate. You might invite someone who’s alone to a holiday meal, create a food basket for a hungry family, or give gifts to needy children, anonymously through a local gift drive. Whatever you choose, make it a family project and an opportunity for your children to give up something for others, whether it’s time or a bit of money. Encourage older children to spend an hour with a grandparent or friend of the family who’s alone. Your enthusiasm and care will be infectious and help your children discover the true joy of giving.
- Don’t stop after the holidays are over. People continue to be hungry or in need of companionship as time goes by. Show children that a generous heart is important all year round. This will help your children develop a thoughtful perspective about their place in the world and cultivate solid values.
How acts of kindness and generosity enhance our health, increase our longevity and make us happier. Can
heart-directed altruism reduce stress? I’ve certainly found this to be true in my life. Research shows when we act on other people’s behalf, we feel better, are more secure, experience less stress and live longer. J. Andrew Armour, a leading neurocardiologist on Institute of HeartMath’s Scientific Advisory Board found that the heart contains cells that synthesize and release hormones such as epinephrine (also called adrenaline) and dopamine. The heart also secretes oxytocin, commonly referred to as the “love” or “bonding” hormone. Concentrations of oxytocin produced in the heart are as high as those found in the brain.
States of joy and delight can result from giving to others. When we are altruistic – helping someone –our oxytocin levels go up, which helps to relieve stress and create the feeling of elation. Altruistic behavior also triggers the brain’s reward circuitry – the feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins. The hormonal benefits of good deeds, however, depend on the genuine caring intent of acts of altruism. HeartMath research has found that caring, like other positive emotions, increases smoothness in the heart’s rhythmic pattern and improves the health of our heart, immune and hormonal systems. Many people are cultivating altruism within themselves and in their children using HeartMath tools. The heart-focused techniques of the HeartMath System help people of all ages align themselves more fully with core values and actualize more care and compassion in their lives.
Practicing these tools has been linked to beneficial changes in hormones that profoundly affect health, happiness and longevity and increase our resilience for dealing with today’s challenges. By integrating these practices in your life, you can reduce your stress and increase your generosity from the heart. Free services section of IHM’s web site offers Tools for Well-Being for children of all ages. These tools are available in both text and audio form.
Encourage your family to hold a heartfelt attitude of peace and good will towards each other throughout the season.