Many American kids have a lot of stuff — and while supplying a child’s needs and wants is a joy for parents, it can also be a stumbling block, as many parents (including this one of four) have reported over time.
Parents want their kids to be happy — but not to feel entitled.
Parents want a tidy house — but they also know that certain things help make a house a home.
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Try as moms and dads might to help kids understand that not every child enjoys the same opportunities or resources as they do, it’s a delicate task to make that concept truly digestible for their little ones.
The holiday season gives parents the chance to approach these goals in thoughtful and practical ways.
It’s the ideal time to find tactile ways to clear your home — and their hearts — of toys, games and more that are no longer needed and to prepare to fill them with more good things (including material, educational, and experiential).
But just how to get them to part with all that stuff?
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Enter a selection from a children’s book series that’s a favorite of many parents with young kids: “The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need.”
It begins with a quick review of all the good food, toys and activities the Bear family enjoys, and then it pivots.
“It seemed, especially to Mama, that perhaps the Beras were enjoying too much of a good thing. It was also clear to Mama, as she managed the tree house, that they had a problem — a problem that came under the heading of Too Much Stuff.”
The mother bear just can’t take it anymore and announces to her family, “This family has altogether too much stuff. It’s time to get rid of some of it.”
The young ones learn an important lesson about honoring their elders, remembering sick children and helping those in need of food and housing.
Brother and Sister Bear aren’t thrilled upon first hearing this news — but once they realized their parents are also subject to the same rule of cleaning out items they aren’t using, the cubs go along with her plan.
They all make piles of their extra possessions and take family trips to a nursing home, a children’s hospital and a Goodwill-like store.
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At each stop, the cubs learn an important lesson about honoring their elders, remembering sick children and helping those in need of food and housing.
The book concludes with Sister Bear dropping a dollar bill into a “Bears Who Care” bucket and a Bear family heading “home with warm feelings about what they had done.”
When you read this book to your young children, you can help make it come to life for the kids.
Parents can ask everyone in the house to pick at least one thing they can give away.
When they groan, remind them that Mom and Dad are doing it, too.
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You can also invite another family to join you in this practice.
Then, take the kids with you as you drop off your things at a location that ensures your donated items will go to people who need them more.
Ask the kids to help you check this off your grocery list.
As you prepare to pass the Salvation Army bucket just before the automatic sliding doors, prompt your two-legged cubs to drop in a coin from their piggy bank or to help you slip in something from your wallet.
Teach them about the work of the Salvation Army — and ask them why they think their volunteers choose to stand by the bucket in the cold.
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Don’t be surprised if your kids seem upset by this. (Parenting is hard.) Instead, be encouraged. It means you’re making an impact.
You’re making room in your home for more good things — and you’re making room in their hearts for even better things.
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The whole experience might just ring in their ears longer than those Salvation Army bells.