It’s easy to forget that the holidays aren’t just about “stuff”. Equally important is the giving of one’s time and, wherever possible, giving back. There are plenty of small steps your entire family can take that add up to major holiday cheer. We’ve compiled our favorite suggestions to teach your child to give back.
Setting the Stage
Jean Shafiroff, author of Successful Philanthropy: How To Make a Life By What You Give, gave CNBC a few things to consider when broaching the subject of kindness, charity, and philanthropy.
Start Early: Children are always watching and learning from their parents. Use this opportunity to model good deeds and kind behavior.
Make It Age-Appropriate: Very young children shouldn’t volunteer at a homeless shelter. Make sure the activity you’ve selected is something they can handle.
Do It Together: The best way to demonstrate kind behavior is to lead by example.
Do It Often: Acts of kindness aren’t limited to the holidays. Make it a routine, so that kindness becomes second-nature.
Make It Fun: “The key is to make the act of giving interesting to children so that they will want to make philanthropy a part of their lives,” Shafiroff said. Emphasize how good it feels to give, knowing they’ve brought someone joy.
Raising children to be kind and empathetic is an enormous responsibility. Teaching them to help those in need is a great way to ensure they become emotionally-intelligent adults and responsible global citizens.
Below, we’ve listed some simple but effective ways your children can demonstrate kindness toward others and give back to their community.
Send Holiday Cards to Those Serving in the Military
There are a number of programs that allow you to write a holiday message to service members deployed overseas, veterans and/or their families. Some are national and many are community-based, so be sure to find out what options are available with your local chapter. Here are a few organizations to get you started: USAOA, Red Cross, The Military Holiday Card Challenge and A Million Thanks.
Brighten a Patient’s Day
Nationwidechildrens.org lets you send an ecard to a hospital patient right from your computer. Choose a layout from their website, fill it out and they will print it out and deliver it to a patient.
Help Hungry Kids
Depending on your child’s age, they may not be ready to work in a soup kitchen serving hot food just yet. If your child is younger, he may be ready to volunteer at a food bank, assembling and packaging food kits for hungry families in need.
Give a Dog a Bed
Have your child collect old (clean) towels, blankets and sheets, which can be donated to your local animal shelter to be used as bedding. Include some treats, new toys or sealed pet food as an added bonus
Set Up a 50/50 Allowance Program
Here’s an opportunity to give your child more responsibility and teach the importance of giving. Arrange a program where, for every chore completed, half of the earnings go to your child and the other half will go to a charity of their choice.
Initiate a Skate Exchange
Ask your child’s school or the parent’s council if they’d be interested in a skate exchange program. Through this, old skates can be swapped or donated for gently-used ‘new’ ones. Any leftover items can be donated to a local organization that distributes used equipment to those in need (for example, sportsgift.org).
Mini Deeds Add Up
Micro-giving is great for families big on heart, but short on time. There are a million quick ways to show kindness and gratitude that may seem small, but when added up can make a significant impact:
- Leave thank-you notes for the mailman or for garbage carriers.
- Bake treats for your local fire station.
- Shovel a neighbor’s driveway.
- Read a book to an elderly person.
- Tell three friends what you like about them.
- Write a letter to a far-away relative.
- Hold the door open for someone and say “Happy Holidays.”
Check out Doing Good Together for these and other ideas on how to brighten someone’s day this season.
Have a ‘Give-Back’ Holiday Party
For your next holiday party, ask guests to make a charitable donation instead of bringing gifts for an exchange or a hostess present. Even better, ask everyone to bring new scarves, gloves, socks or toys you and your child can collect and bring to a local shelter.
Kindness, empathy and generosity are all important lessons to teach your children, and modelling compassionate behavior will help them turn it into a lifelong habit. Good deeds don’t need to be big, only kind and thoughtful. After all, helping those in need is what the holiday season is all about.
How to Teach Your Child to Give Back — Sources:
12 Ways Children Can Give Back This Holiday Season
10 Ways Your Kids Can Give Back During the Holidays
5 ways to teach your kids the art of giving this holiday season
Doing Good Together