Christopher Willard

Christopher Willard, Psyd, is a clinical psychologist and consultant specializing in bringing mindfulness into education and psychotherapy. The author of Child's Mind (Parallax, 2010) and other books on the topic, Dr. Willard lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and teaches at Harvard Medical School and Lesley University. For more, visit drchristopherwillard.com.

Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interview with Christopher Willard:
Growing Up Mindful »

Also By Author

How to Cultivate Generosity in Our Children

 

Nearly every spiritual tradition has a practice of generosity and giving. We call it Dana in some traditions, Caritas in Christianity, Tzedekah in Judaism, alms or communal sharing in others, or in the United States, “The Holiday Season” stretching onward from Black Friday through the New Year. These spiritual (and commercial) practices existed long before the term “positive psychology,” but the principles overlap significantly. We know now that making a practice of kindness and generosity leads to physical and mental health and social and spiritual benefits.

In families, children are often in the “getting” role, while adults are in the “giving role,” but how can we encourage that spirit of generosity in the next generation?

We are wired to be generous, and both neuroscience and well-worn clichés tells us we feel more joy in giving than in receiving. However, our consumer culture tells us the opposite, that getting will make us feel better. These messages run counter to the spiritual and scientific wisdom showing health and happiness come more through giving than getting. Just imagine if our society received just as many messages urging us to give than get, if people camped outside stores for days just to donate to the latest charity.

Among the many benefits, generosity also builds trust between people. Studies show that the giver’s brain regions associated with trust and connection light up, fostering optimism, reducing depression, and creating healthy attachments, showing us why cultures develop practices related to gift-giving. The benefits even extend to just witnessing an act of generosity.

 

So how can we encourage generosity our families? Here are a few ideas to consider.

  • Involve your kids in the decision for charitable giving, taking into account what your family’s values are: Social justice, the environment, health issues that have impacted your family, presents for children or families in need, and so on.
  • Follow the lead of my friend’s grandmother who gave the grandkids $100 each year, with $50 to spend on themselves and $50 she would donate to a charity of their choice.
  • Remember that giving can also include your time or your support. Volunteer as a family, a practice shown to boost happiness, empathy, and build closeness.
  • Give experiences; the happiness will last longer than the lifespan of a toy. Perhaps travel, theater tickets, or museum passes.
  • Donate toys to make space for the new. Notice together which toys are getting lonely and would be happier in a new home, saying thank you and goodbye to old toys, and imagining the happiness they will bring after they’ve been donated.

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

 

Excerpted from Raising Resilience by Christopher Willard, Pysd.

Christopher Willard, Psyd, is a clinical psychologist and consultant specializing in bringing mindfulness into education and psychotherapy. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, teaches at Harvard Medical Schools, and leads workshops worldwide. For more, visit drchristopherwillard.com.

Christopher Willard: Growing Up Mindful

Christopher Willard is a licensed psychologist who focuses on mindfulness, anxiety, and learning issues. With Sounds True, he has released a new book and companion audio called Growing Up Mindful: Essential Practices to Help Children, Teens, and Families Find Balance, Calm, and Resilience. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Chris and Tami talk about the inherent difficulties of being a child and how mindfulness practice can help ease the tensions of growing up. They discuss the different ways one can teach meditation techniques to kids, as well as the different ages at which one can start this instruction. Finally, Chris shares his vision of how mindfulness could be a powerful public health intervention—one that could possibly have an essential place in the future of childhood education.
(59 minutes)

You Might Also Enjoy

How to Have Kids and a Life

Ericka Sóuter has over 20 years of journalism experience and is a nationally recognized voice in parenting news and parenting advice. A frequent contributor on Good Morning America and other national broadcast outlets, she regularly speaks on the issues, trends, and controversies that are most affecting parents and new families today. With Sounds True, Ericka has written a book called How to Have a Kid and a Life: A Survival Guide

In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Ericka about what it means to be a parent today. They discuss why more and more parents are opening up about not just the joys but also the challenges of raising children—and how our definition of “good parenting” is changing as a result. Ericka brings realism and humor to this enlightening conversation, helping parents navigate the expectations versus the realities of parenthood as they tend to their own happiness. “Love is innate,” Ericka shares. “Parenting skills are not.”

Revitalizing the Sacred Arts and Raising a Star Child

Briana Saussy is a writer, teacher, and founder of the Sacred Arts Academy, a school dedicated to the restoration, remembering, and everyday practice of the sacred arts. With Sounds True, she’s written Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary, as well as Star Child: Joyful Parenting Through Astrology, where she invites us to recognize how the zodiac’s archetypes live within each of us, to honor these differences, and to joyfully raise our children by the stars. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Briana discuss the many practices that make up what Briana calls the “sacred arts.” They explore why many of these practices, such as ritual and astrology, have been relegated to the sidelines in modern Western culture, how myth and folklore act as the primary source material for the sacred arts, and how we can participate in the current revival of these practices. They also discuss how astrology can help us better understand our children and the full range of humanness we all embody.

Meaning-Making, Motherhood, and the Journey of Individ...

Lisa Marchiano is a clinical social worker, a certified Jungian analyst, and a nationally certified psychoanalyst. She cohosts This Jungian Life, a podcast devoted to exploring current topics through the lens of depth psychology. With Sounds True, Lisa has written a new book titled Motherhood: Facing and Finding Yourself, which presents a collection of myths, fables, and fairy tales to evoke the spiritual arc of raising a child from infancy through adulthood. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon talks to Lisa about what drew her to Jungian psychology and how Jung’s teachings have helped guide her journey through motherhood and life. They also discuss: the Jungian notion of individuation, a perpetual process of self-discovery and psychological growth; bringing the “taboos” of motherhood into the light; the complicated relationship between motherhood and creativity; Jungian dream analysis; and why the suffering we experience as parents and as individuals grants us a special opportunity to “encounter soul.”

>