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It is easy for all of us to get caught up in the frenzy and fun of the holiday season and forget the reason for the season. While we search for the perfect gift, that chaos may result in us (and our children) losing focus on the spirit and intention of Christmas and Hanukkah.

So why not give your kids the gift of gratitude the season? Consider teaching them the importance and value of giving back. The feeling they receive as a result of giving of their time and talent may be as good as how they feel opening a gift this holiday.

Here are some tips for teaching your children the real spirit of the holiday season, and building a sense of gratitude and thankfulness.

TALK ABOUT MONEY
Teach your kids that not all happiness comes from a mountain of gifts. What can they do for someone else that has little or no cost? They could hand make something for a friend or family member or offer a service like babysitting or dog walking.

TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE THANKFUL FOR
This doesn’t have to be a big conversation (and your teen probably won’t want to have one). But take a minute to talk with your spouse or child about this year and what they are grateful for. Let them hear and learn from your conversations with others.

SERVE OTHERS
Seek out volunteer opportunities no matter how big or small. Looking for just the right one? Check out Chicago Cares (chicagocares.org) for ideas for you and your family. If it’s too much stress to do something in December, plan for January or February, but pick the event at the holiday.

THANK YOU NOTES
This may seem like a lost art, but it shouldn’t be. Putting pen to paper and showing appreciation matters! Gift givers should be shown respect and love by a hand written note of gratitude. This small deed will help your child focus on the efforts of someone else.

All of these suggestions might not fit into your life of the fabric of your family. But maybe one idea does. The gift of gratitude costs nothing, and can last a lifetime. Batteries not needed.

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