How to Teach Kids to Appreciate What They Have


One of my earliest memories is when I was around five years old. It was Christmas time and my parents had told my brothers and sisters and myself that this Christmas we were going to do something a little different on Christmas eve. We were all so excited to see what this new activity was going to be. Naturally, we resorted to thoughts of doing something fun like ice skating or going to get hot chocolate.

Christmas Eve arrived and as we were getting dressed up to go to midnight mass my parents said we had one stop before mass. We pulled up to a small house. As we got out of the car we started to see that this house wasn’t in the best condition. We rang the doorbell and five small faces immediately popped into the living room window. “They’re here! They’re here!” the children yelled. Some of my brothers and sisters knew what was going on but, being younger, I was still putting the pieces together.

We sat with the family and played with the kids for a few hours. My parents pulled out numerous bags of groceries and beautifully wrapped presents and I remember thinking, why are they getting presents and I am not? Shortly after, we all piled into the car and the questions started pouring out. “Why were we there?  How come there were only two rooms and three beds for a family of seven? Why did those kids get presents and we didn’t? Why was there house falling apart? Why did they show you their empty kitchen cabinets?”

My parents went on to explain the powerful lesson we all needed to learn in charity. They explained how this family could not afford to eat, that a lot of their money was going toward their sick son’s medical expenses. Since they couldn’t even afford food, that meant they couldn’t afford presents for their children for Christmas. We all got quiet as we slowly started to realize the situation this family was in and why we were there.

This was a game changer. That experience changed my life and it changed the way I viewed those who had less than we did; it changed the gratitude I had as a child for the things I had been given and most importantly it taught me to always put others’ needs before my own. The best part is that it made me want to continue giving. As I look back, I am so thankful that my parents did this with us because it makes me want to teach my children about the power of Service from an early age.

Service is such an important virtue to teach our children. There is always a need out there for someone to be loved more, for someone to be fed, for someone to be listened to, the needs are endless.  Mother Theresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  It is important that we teach our children that charity starts right where you are. Service can be in the smile you give someone passing by, it can be helping someone carry their groceries to their car; it can be helping your children with their homework.

Our service doesn’t have to be on a grand scale. It is like a ripple, it starts out small but, because of its powerful ability to change hearts, it continues to grow and reach people across the world. Isn’t it amazing to think that one small act of kindness, compassion, generosity, or love has the power to change the world.

As the year draws to a close, many families are probably busy putting up holiday decorations, planning family vacations or Christmas parties and so on. But, maybe take a step back and think about what activities you can do as a family to help those in need. There are so many opportunities for you to make a difference in the world around you and more importantly be an example to your children of the power of service.

Looking back, it was especially helpful to share in charitable acts with my parents and family. It brought a unity to our family that still holds us together and makes us stronger today. When we began performing acts of charity for our community as a family we started to take those acts into our home and began living selflessly for one another.

Here are some ideas for you and your family to start living charity this holiday season:

  • Start in the home. Set a goal of one charitable act per day per family member. At the end of the day go through what each person has done and explain how this act was charitable and the difference it makes in each of your lives.

  • Go to a local nursing home and visit with others! Bring along homemade treats or gifts, too, if you want.

  • Contact your local food bank and take an afternoon to go volunteer.

  • If your family prefers to be outdoors, volunteer to pick up trash in your local parks or hiking trails.

  • Contact your local Catholic Charities. Regardless of faith, Catholic Charities works with millions of people every year in every walk of life to help those across the world that are in great need.

  • Volunteer at a nursing home or hospital.

  • Donate your unwanted clothes, shoes, goods, and/or food.

“A life not lived for others is not a life.”― Mother Teresa 

Christine is a wife, mother of 3 boys, and an event planner. Pairing all this with an outgoing personality, you can imagine that she is constantly on the go! Even with Christine’s constantly moving schedule, she takes the time to intentionally work on character within her family and reflect on the things that matter most.