This post is brought to you by Giving Tuesday. Save the date- 12/3/13- and celebrate by giving back to those in need.

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On Friday, the madness of the holiday season really begins. While Friday through Monday is all about shopping- with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday- Tuesday is about something a little different- giving. See, giving is really one of the most important parts of the holiday season. It’s the grand finale in A Christmas Carole, when Scrooge wakes up and realizes that being a tightwad miser leads to little more than misery and dying alone. It’s the theme behind just about every great holiday movie. Giving back not only helps those in need, it boosts are own holiday spirit and makes us feel good about ourselves too.

Jacob is only eight, so he’s still very much in the whole “what will Santa bring me” part of the holidays. It’s important to me that he understands the spirit of giving back to others. He learned a valuable lesson about that this past Saturday. See, we’ve been having some serious memory problems over the last few years. Some months, I struggle to keep a roof over our head. Things are getting better and I really believe 2014 is going to be the year it all changes. This isn’t a woe-is-me post. I pay for Jacob’s holiday gifts with gift cards that I collect throughout the year from doing blog posts and he gets plenty of review items so he doesn’t really notice that we’re poor.

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Since we are low-income, we get a free turkey for Thanksgiving from a local charity. When we went to pick up our Turkey, Jacob asked why they were giving it to us. He’s asked before about different things. Why does he get free lunch? Why can’t he join school sports? Why can’t we see all the movies he wants to see in theaters? Why, why, why? I’ve been honest to a point. I tell him we can’t afford it, I just don’t tell him how very MUCH we can’t afford it. When I told him that we were getting the turkey because we are “broke,” he seemed more surprised than when he hears it because he can’t get the latest toy.

Rather than just letting him think I got the turkey for a blog post (which is where he assumes everything in this house comes from at this point!), I told him the truth about its origins. I wanted him to know that while others are generous to us during the holidays, we also need to be generous to others. See, we may be broke, but we do have other ways to giving back. We can donate our time, for example. Whether it’s helping out at a local charity or just being there for a friend in need, we can help. Everyone can help, no matter how much or how little money you have.

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How to inspire your child to give back on Giving Tuesday and every day

  • Talk about those in need. Don’t shield your child from the realities of the world. Although I tried to shield Jacob from our own realities as much as possible, he always knew that there were others in bad situations. I was so proud of him when he gave part of his school store money to another child who left his behind.
  • Let them know that no matter how little they are, they can help. Children often feel powerless because we make them so. We make all their choices, we tell them what to eat and wear, when to go to bed. They start to think that they can’t make a difference. After all, how can their measly $5/week allowance change the world. Show them that in some parts of the world, that $5 is enough to feed a family for a week!
  • Be a good role model. You can’t tell your child to be generous and give to others when you’re hoarding every last cent to buy the latest and greatest gadget or designer purse. If you have the money for those things, great, but make sure your child also sees that you are helping others, either with your time or monetary donations.
  • Let your child lead the way. If your daughter is passionate about cats, choose a charity that helps homeless animals. If he’s a reader, go with a great literacy cause that gets books into the hands of children who don’t have any. Kids are more likely to want to give if they feel connected to the cause in some way.
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Make sure kids know that money isn’t the only way to give. You also have time! Don’t have that either because you’re working 15 hours a day just to keep a roof over your head? Then buy products that give back. Support companies that support others. Clean out your pantry and donate non-perishable items to a food pantry. Start up a neighborhood glove drive collection. Just do something to give back.  Not only  on Giving Tuesday, but every day throughout the year. You can make a difference. Your child can make a difference. We can make the world a better place.

Visit Giving Tuesday to learn more about this fantastic day of generosity and goodwill towards others.

How do you encourage the spirit of giving with your children and talk with them about the importance of giving back?