The Reason for the Season: Teaching Young Children about Compassion During the Holidays


A child holding a box of international aid donation items.Ever since I can remember, my parents participated in sponsoring individuals or families in need around Christmas time. We would all shop for necessities such as jackets, gloves, socks, and toiletries. From a very young age, I can recall thinking it was awful that some people didn’t have the basics I so easily took for granted. It never occurred to me that I should consider having winter boots in the right size or toothpaste to put on my toothbrush to be blessings, but while out shopping for those in need, I quickly realized that they most certainly were.

These are priceless lessons that I learned in my youth, and I am eternally grateful to my parents for teaching me. And now, as a new mom, there are many values I hope to instill in my daughter that she can one day look back on and appreciate, too.

I intentionally involve my daughter in our holiday traditions that allow us to give back. While she may not know exactly what is going on, her ever-growing mind is a sponge, and I can’t think of a better way to begin teaching her how to show compassion towards others.

As sponsoring individuals or families became so important to me as a child, I still participate yearly through Operation Hope’s “Hope for the Holiday” program. We decided to start shopping early to allow our daughter to come along. She has an adorable obsession with socks and tags, so not surprisingly, she had a blast!

Before we began, I briefly explained to her that we needed her help selecting some items for people who truly needed them. My husband placed a few options on her lap, and we let her pick the color or print of a specific “wished-for” item. We also had our daughter help select non-perishable items for two local food drives: one organized by my office and the other run through our church.

As it does every year, it feels so good to bring holiday cheer to those who need it most, but with my daughter present to aid in the effort, the experience carries a much deeper meaning.

Knowing that I can share traditions with her that have been such a huge part of my life for many years is amazing. Her excitement and involvement at this young age brought joy to my husband and me, and I can’t wait to see her reaction next year!

In what ways do you plan to teach your young children about compassion and helping others?

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Meet Caitlin! Caitlin grew up in Fairfield, CT and after some time living elsewhere, she is ecstatic to call the town home again. She works full-time in higher education at a local university and has found great joy in supporting college students for almost ten years. Caitlin met her husband, Matthew, in college. They were married in 2009 and welcomed their daughter, Parker, in December of 2014. She spends her free time at yoga, writing, watching sports, and attempting to change the world through advocacy and involvement in social justice movements. Connect with Caitlin on Twitter @CaitPereira.


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