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Parents: A Time of Thanks and Giving

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Even though stores have been decorated for Christmas since September, and the leaves are off the trees, I can hardly believe the holiday season is already here. With all the news reports of department stores, malls and even the large office supply stores keeping their doors open on Thanksgiving Day, I hope you will be putting off your Black Friday madness long enough to celebrate this wonderful holiday with family and friends. I know it's difficult to resist the bargains -- who doesn't want to forgo the pumpkin pie in order to spend the holiday buying legal pads and ink cartridges? Really?

I love the holiday season -- special meals, family gatherings, and reminiscing. Thanksgiving gives us all an opportunity to remember what is most important in our lives. It also brings the reminder that no matter your personal circumstance; there are so many people in the world less fortunate who need help. Break down the name Thanksgiving into its two parts for your kids: thanks and giving.

THANKS
Teach your kids to be appreciative. They may not understand that the current jobless rate is 7.3 percent, or that 46.2 million Americans live below the official poverty level, but they can understand that many people aren't as fortunate as they. This is a good time to refresh their lessons on the distinction between need and want.

A Need: Something without which your daily living would be impossible, or very, very difficult.

A Want: Something that if you had, you'd be happier momentarily, but if you didn't, you could live without.

As they watch the Christmas advertisements which have taken over the airwaves, and make their "wish" lists, point out that they may need a new pair of boots, but they want those popular, expensive, name brand boots that "everyone" is wearing.

Take the time to acknowledge all you have to be thankful for. Have your kids make lists of their blessings. In my family it is our tradition to go around the Thanksgiving table, as we dine, and ask each person to name something for which they are grateful.

GIVING
Children understand the basic idea that it's good to help others so giving (charity) is an easy concept to explain, but it still has to be taught. Take this opportunity to impart your personal values to your kids and discuss your favorite charities and why they are worthwhile.

I am an advocate of teaching our kids to budget their allowance. The allowance system operates on a "work for pay" principle and a portion of the weekly pay should be set aside for charity. There are four components to my budget system: Charity, Quick Cash, Medium-Term Savings and Long-Term Savings. Ten percent of all money the children earn should go to charity. Then divide the balance among the remaining three categories.

I have always stressed the importance of sharing and giving of one's self in order to be "citizens of the community." This Thanksgiving presents the perfect time to introduce this idea to your family and teach them that charity should continue throughout the year.

Remember that charity doesn't necessarily mean giving money. I know, that particularly in this financial climate, giving money may be out of the question. Instead, think of a way you and your family can give back to your community by giving of your time or talent. You can volunteer to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter or invite someone to your home who might be alone for the holiday. A very rewarding family project is to write greeting cards to our troops. Make this the start of a tradition of giving.

About That Black Friday Madness
Black Friday originally referred to the beginning of the holiday shopping season - the point at which retail ledgers moved from being in the red to showing a profit. Last year, in my Huff Post Parents blog Don't Let Black Friday Put You In The Red, I offered advice to shoppers.

It is not only important, but rewarding to hold onto family traditions and to pass them down to our children. The stores may be open this Thanksgiving day, but I don't think you should be having turkey sandwiches with your family in the aisles of the super-chains. Enjoy the day at home -- there will be enough bargains left for the weekend.