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Healthy Children

with Steven Parker, MD

This blog is now retired. Dr. P passed away on Monday, April 13, 2009. The WebMD Community will dearly miss his kind, caring, and often humorous manner.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

PROJECT GOOD HEART 2008: Teaching Your Kids the True Spirit of the Holidays

Somehow, not only Christmas, but all year through,
The joy that you give to others is the joy that comes back to you.
And the more you spend in blessing the poor and lonely and sad,
The more of the heart’s possessing returns to you glad.

- John Greenleaf Whittier

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As if you needed more proof that economic times for families are tough and likely to get tougher, consider this: in this 2008 holiday season, the average American consumer plans to spend about 1/2 of what they spent last year ($431 versus $816) on gifts (that still totals about $100 billion dollars nationwide).

Your kids will be, of course, still excited to get their presents, which are – let’s face it – pretty much the meaning of Christmas and Chanukah for most of them (and most of us).

I’m no Grinch, but what if each of us were to donate to charity a mere 10% of our intended expenditures on presents? That would amount to $10 billion dollars. And what might that teach our kids?

That’s why I’d like to encourage you to sign on to our PROJECT GOOD HEART, in which you donate to a charity (of your child’s choice) the money that you would have spent on one of his/her presents.

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Here’s how PROJECT GOOD HEART works:

  • Explain to your kids (over the age of 5-6 years or so) that instead of one gift you would have given them, they are to chose a charity to donate whatever dollars that present would have cost.
  • Talk about the reasons charities exist and why empathy towards people less fortunate is a family value (“Remember when we saw those people on TV who lost their homes?”).
  • Discuss with them the various kinds of charities and how they help those less advantaged in many ways.
  • Ask them what kind of help they would like to give: for food? shelter? medicine? toys? books? For kids their age? needy families? victims of disasters or war? the poor? endangered animals? the environment?
  • Encourage them to put themselves in another’s shoes: “If our family was unlucky and lost a lot of the things we now have or we were victims of a storm or a war, how would you want others to help us?”
  • Guide the discussion: “Sure, Billy, buying a lot of Twinkies for a homeless family is a great idea and would make them happy for a short minute, but can you think of other ways to help them?”
  • But, remember, in the end, it’s their donation and their charity. Let them choose.
  • On Christmas or Chanukah, give them a Project Good Heart card (you can print the logo above) that says, “X dollars donated by Billy to the ABC charity, where it will be used to ___. Thanks, Billy!”

Perhaps, one day, when the latest toy is rusting in the basement, your kids will remember their charitable gifts as having best taught them the true spirit of the holidays.

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The fragrance always stays in the hand that gives the rose.
- Hada Bejar

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM DR. P

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PROJECT GOOD HEART logo by my colleague, friend and collaborator on PROJECT GOOD HEART, Jack Maypole, MD.

If you’d like some information and guidance on worthwhile charities, here are some good web sites to guide your discussion and help make a choice:

** Read about some families’ experiences with PROJECT GOOD HEART from last year. I’d love to hear from you about what your family does and learns from PROJECT GOOD HEART 2008.

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Posted by: Steven Parker MD at 10:03 am

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