The gift of giving is a big part of the winter holiday experience, so it’s no wonder that it’s the time of year when many people start thinking not just about giving presents to friends and family, but about giving back to their community in the form of volunteering.
As a parent, you also may be thinking about cultivating a spirit of giving and generosity in your children, so you want to find ways of including them when you’re thinking of ways to give back.
Approaching giving back as a family activity has a number of benefits. It may be easier for you to find the time to do good things for your community if your children can be there with you.
It’s good for your children and teens to learn the value of giving back to the community while they’re young. And giving back can also simply be a fun and rewarding way to spend quality time together as a family.
If you’re looking for ways to include the gift of giving back to your community with your family this holiday season, take a look at some ideas that can help.
The Gift of Giving Furry Friends Some Love
Humans aren’t the only people who need some love and attention during the holidays – animal shelters need volunteers too. Your local Humane Society or other animal shelter or rescue organization may need people to walk the animals, feed them, clean up after them, or even just pet and play with them.
Children and teens would be delighted to spend a few hours with animals, even if there is supporting work. Make sure to check out the rules at your shelter – some may not allow children under a certain age to volunteer, while others might be fine with younger children who are accompanied by a parent.
Also, regardless of your child’s age, it’s important to be sure that they’re familiar with the basics of safely interacting with animals. There’s always a risk that an animal may bite or scratch, but a child who knows how to approach, touch, and play with an animal safely will be less likely to be bitten or scratched.
The Gift of Giving Stories
Contact your local library and find out if they’re looking for readers for story time.
This can be a great volunteer activity for both adults and children who are old enough to read independently. Even young children who happen to be strong readers can participate – as a matter of fact, non-readers who attend story time may be particularly receptive to being read to by a peer or slightly older child, as opposed to an adult.
Teenagers who are able to read more adult material might also find volunteer reading opportunities at a local nursing home or at a service organization that caters to people who are blind or have other vision difficulties.
Volunteering to read can be a great way for children and teens to strengthen their own reading skills and be exposed to new reading material that they may not have discovered on their own while giving someone else the opportunity to hear and experience new stories as well.
As volunteer opportunities go, reading aloud is relatively accessible to all kinds of people at all kinds of ability levels, so it’s a great choice for families when other types of volunteer activities may not be accessible.
Feed Your Community
Everyone needs food, and the act of feeding others is a universal expression of love and care. Soup kitchens, food pantries, and meal delivery services all focus on meeting the physical and emotional needs to be fed, and these organizations tend to rely heavily on both volunteers and donations from the community.
If you are looking for a way to give back that will have an immediate positive impact on your community, you can’t go wrong with donating food, delivering food, or serving food. It’s guaranteed to improve the day of the people who receive the food, and it’s an activity that everyone can participate in. Even very small children can hand out plates and silverware, box up canned goods, or help load the car with hot meals.
If you’re going to donate food, it’s a good idea to call your local food bank and ask what specific items they need. Food pantries often take donations from people who simply clean out their pantries of expired items they’re not using, and this can lead to situations where the pantry has a lot of old cans of green beans or creamed corn but not a lot of good shelf-stable protein sources, like canned tuna or chicken.
Consider donating things like peanut butter alternatives or gluten-free sandwich bread so that those needs can be met.
Food banks look for items that can be easily stored and consumed by people who don’t have places to store food or ways to cook. Think of things like:
- Granola bars
- Dry cereal
- Jerkies, or
- Dried fruits
Your family could go grocery shopping together to pick out a variety of healthy, tasty, and accessible foods to donate.
Keep it Going All Year
The urge to indulge in the gift of giving during the holidays is wonderful. If the holiday season is a happy time of year for your family, it’s commendable that you want to find ways to share that happiness with others by giving back.
However, it’s worth noting that social good organizations and the people they serve need help and support all year long, not just during the holidays. Sometimes organizations struggle all year to find volunteers when they need them, then have to turn people away during December because they have more volunteers than they can use at that moment.
Why not make the gift of giving back as a family one of your goals for the new year? Look for ways to donate your time or money together as a family at least once a month or so.
Your family will bond around your shared activities and you’ll get to see your efforts benefit your community and the people in it on an ongoing basis.
Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.