The holidays are a time for giving. They also present an opportunity for parents to teach their children an invaluable lesson: generosity. What is the best way to raise a charitable child? Set an example. As the holidays draw near, consider volunteering as a family to show your children that the best gifts don’t come in boxes. They come in the form of a smile on someone else’s face – and knowing that you put it there.
Here are five ways for giving back this holiday season:
Start a Toy Drive
Each holiday season, your extended family may give plentifully to your children, in addition to the gifts that your children receive from you. This year, consider asking relatives to donate gifts to a toy drive to benefit the less fortunate. For example, call a local orphanage or shelter to ask for the genders and age ranges of their children, as well as for the kind of toys, books or furnishings needed. Assign each family member to buy something for a specific child. After collecting the gifts, you may want to take your children with you to deliver the gifts, so that they understand the magnitude of the act and what it will mean to the children on the receiving end.
Do you know someone who has been feeling low? Surprise him or her with flowers and a hand-written note. In the note, have each of your family members share an inspirational quote, joke or characteristic they appreciate about the recipient. For a gift with longevity, consider giving the person a potted flower and volunteering to replant it in his or her yard or in a larger pot so the flower grows. Throughout the year, the flower will remind the recipient of your kind words and the fact that he or she is loved.
A visit from your family could brighten an elderly person’s day, whether or not they’re a blood relative. Many local homes for the elderly or non-profit organizations may be able to pair your family with an elderly person who would treasure your visits and companionship. Think beyond the holidays and try to plan regular monthly visits, so that your new friend can always look forward to next time.
Last year, 3.5 million people slept in parks, under bridges, in shelters, or in cars. Food is often one of the first essentials to be sacrificed by the needy, according to some studies. How can you help? The National Coalition for the Homeless has a directory on its website to help connect volunteers with local shelters. For example, you and your family could help serve a holiday meal or donate canned food items. Let your kids take the lead by looking through your pantry for canned goods to give away (be sure to have them check for expiration dates). You could also ask the shelter if they have any specific food requests for hot meals. Then, head to a grocery store with your children to select the items. Deliver them personally.
Adopt a Pet
By adopting a pet you could save an animal’s life and provide your child with an opportunity to learn responsibility and selflessness. Before deciding to become a pet owner, learn which pets are best for children based on such factors as their ages and allergies. Run the numbers to ensure that you’re financially ready to take on a pet, considering such costs as food, toys, pet carrier or crate, medical expenses, and future boarding costs. Finally, have a conversation with your kids to ensure that they fully understand and are ready for the commitment of pet ownership. If everything’s a go, head to a local animal shelter to find the next addition to your loving family.
Can’t adopt a pet? You could volunteer to help care for dogs and cats at a local animal shelter or to help them connect with potential owners at adoption events.
By spreading joy to others this holiday season, you’ll find that you can’t help but feel joy in return.