Give Santa a while out this vacation season

For many, many children, life is already changing as the nation faces the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. Maybe this is their first time doing virtual learning or homeschooling. One or both parents or guardians may have experienced changes in employment. Families could be evicted or lost. Food insecurity is a growing problem. It is completely normal to want to lean into the joy of holidays and celebrations in order to recover from much collective grief, fear and restlessness. But the last thing low-income families need is a sense of guilt or self-blame when the children don't receive as many gifts as their richer peers.

If you are an adult leaving gifts for children, you should make sure the child knows that the more expensive or desired gift is from you. There is no reason why Santa Claus cannot leave the Christmas socks or the body wash in the stocking. You can also just leave one gift for Santa, unlike many others. Another option is to sit down with the children and let them choose which gifts (assuming they are not torn yet) they would like to give to their local homeless shelter or common room. Children have great capacities for maturity and compassion. If they are lucky enough to live in houses that are not directly affected by the pandemic, this type of experience can be a great learning experience for them.

If you don't have or do not have children in your life but have the financial resources to help more, consider a family's vacation wish list. There are different options depending on where you live, but many community help rooms allow you to join a family to shop for. For example, you can find out the genders and ages of the children, the number of people living at home, or their favorite color or hobby. Sometimes the wish lists come with specific requests, such as a toy or a gift card for a specific business. While gifts aren't the end of all holidays, children and teenagers can be especially vulnerable to the social consequences if they don't keep up with what their peers are receiving. Gifts can also be educational, like books or school supplies, or necessities like new shoes or winter clothes.

Finally, donating holiday meals is a big step too. Thanksgiving meals are popular, but you can also donate meals during the holiday season. Or, of course, you can pay it up by donating food or money to your local animal shelter or relief group at any time of the year. Just make sure you are not donating supplies that have expired or are damaged.

If you'd like your kids to join a charity that relates a little more to their experiences, consider making a donation to help cancel the school lunch debt. Because yes, we live in a nation where kids and teens go into debt just to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. These are also opportunities to teach your children about allies and that good can be done for others in private and discreet manner. You don't have to blow up every good deed on social media. The good lies in doing, not the fanfare.

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