In an increasing consumerist environment, how do we teach kids to have an ‘attitude of gratitude’, not only during the holiday season but year-round? You can inspire valuable awareness, and community leadership skills in your child, by helping them find ways to give back.
If you have a demanding schedule, the idea of committing to weekly volunteering may seem impossible. However, micro-volunteering is an easy way for families to make a difference in their local communities, offering short one-time opportunities that have an impact. It is an excellent way to introduce children to the importance of getting involved, in a hands-on way, through independent acts of charity and kindness throughout the year (and especially during the holiday season).
How can you turn some spare time and good intentions, into charitable works that help your kids learn the value of volunteering and compassion for others? Check out these five fun and low-to-no-cost activities you can plan for December.
- Organize a Winter Coat Drive
Raising charitable funds just before the holiday season can be a challenge. But many families have one or more good quality winter jackets for children and adults, hanging in the closet, that they are willing to part with for a good cause.
Start by locating a charity that offers free winter garments to families in need. Create a Group on Facebook for your Winter Coat Drive, and invite family and friends to join the page, as you accept donations at work, at home or at school, for your community.
Have the children contribute cover art for the Facebook Group, and allow them to be involved in sourcing donations. Nothing will make them feel happier and proud, than the moment they deliver warm winter jackets, or hats and mittens, to a local shelter.
Contribute Time at a Food Bank
Most children will never have to question where their next meal will come from. But teaching kids that meals are not always guaranteed for all families is a valuable lesson in both gratitude, and in understanding the impact of poverty on the lives of children around them.
Food banks offer holiday boxes but are always in need of hands and hearts to help them organize food and clothing donations. Surrounding your children in the spirit of giving, and teaching them that they can make a difference in their local community by helping, is a valuable, life-long lesson.
To find your local food bank, visit the “Feeding America” website, for a convenient search by zip code tool, that can connect you to organizations looking for extra help during the holiday season.
Make Christmas Cards or Gifts for Long-Term Care Residents and Seniors
Nothing makes the holiday brighter for senior citizens than seeing the smiling faces and natural positive energy of a child. Did you know that many nursing homes, hospitals and long-term care facilities encourage visitation from volunteers? Speak to your local institutions for details and how you can get involved.
Have a Charitable Garage Sale
Most families accumulate toys, games and gently used clothing that can be sold at a garage sale, to raise funds for a charity in your own local area. Teaching children to purge unwanted items, and put the money to good use helping others during the holiday season, allows for financial learning, and helps them develop a sense of responsibility for families in need.
For Mom’s, the charitable garage sale is a gift that keeps giving; you’ll finally be able to close the closet door again. At least until they unwrap their gifts this year.
Write Holiday Cards to Veterans and Military Servicemen and Women
Not everyone will make it home for the holiday. For active members of the armed forces who are deployed internationally, the season can be lonely and isolating, far from those they love. For veterans who may have few surviving family or friends, it can be a difficult time as well.
Homemade holiday cards from children, are inexpensive to make, and engage both your child’s creativity and sense of compassion, for individuals who may otherwise feel left out of the joy of the season.
One organization, ‘Adopt a Soldier’, connects American civilians to members of the military, to show appreciation and recognition. Another charity group, “A Million Thanks” provides year-round resources to both active service personnel and veterans, with opportunities to show compassion and support to members of the American military.
When parents make regular volunteering part of normal life, we have the chance to show important social values in action, through example. Volunteering doesn’t have to be through a charitable organization, it can be thoughtful acts of kindness for seniors living in your neighborhood. It’s about showing how caring can make a difference, one of the most important character building gifts you can give your child.