Explaining the Angel Tree/charity to my kids

Every year, there are toy drives during the holidays. Jase’s school does an Angel Tree with our sister school. The sister school picks out families in need of a little help during the holiday season and sends our school the list of what is needed. It could be household items, clothes or toys for the kids.

I want my kids to be generous and caring. I want to encourage them to help those in need of a little help so last year we adopted a family from the tree. We bought blankets for the parents and a toy for the boy as well as two new outfits. Jase didn’t relish the thought of giving clothing for Christmas. I knew he would be less than thrilled

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to receive clothes under the Christmas tree. But I explained that this family needed the clothes more than they needed toys. I am not sure he really understood.

This year, I wanted to get Lexie and Jase a little more involved in the picking of items. I let them each choose one kid from the tree that is close to their age. Before we picked the kids, I sat down and talked to them about how some people have less than we do. Some families struggle to get by and that some kids don’t have a room full of toys like they do.

I don’t think they understand. Even when we participate in food drives throughout the year, they don’t understand that other kids may not know where their next meal is coming from. Sometimes Lexie complains that she is “starving,” but I know she had no clue what it is to go hungry. And really, neither do I. Luckily for our family, we have never been in that situation.

I turned to the Internet to see if there was any advice on how to explain these things to them but didn’t find much that would help. Some sites recommended researching a charity and supporting it. Some sites recommended taking them to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter to volunteer. I just don’t feel comfortable with that at this age.

I also found a commentary on Forbes about a man who said he doesn’t give to toy drives. His belief is that giving to toy drives doesn’t FIX any problem. He would rather his money go to finding solutions. Giving to a toy drive is just not the best use of your limited “charity” money in his opinion.

And while I understand the merits of what he is saying – yes, there may be better uses for our money, I still will be participating in toy drives or our local Angel Tree. I have had friends whose families have relied on Angel Trees to provide gifts for their kids. Those children had little and were very appreciative for the small gifts and clothes they received. It helped them out when their families were struggling.

How can making kids happy not be good? Yes, it would be nice to find a way that those kids have a safe place to live or a warm, filling meals each day. But I don’t have it in my power to change those things. Yes, I can research and give my money to a charity that might help them, but I can also make two local kids have a happier Christmas – and hopefully teach my kids about helping others – by participating in the school’s Angel Tree.