When you ask children what they love about the holidays – the answer is usually the presents. It is natural for kids to focus on what’s in it for them. But studies suggest that giving, either gifts or your time to help others, gives a sense of purpose, boosts self-esteem and shifts our attention to making other people happy. This can define and strengthen relationships and increase connection to a supportive social network.
For parents who are trying to instill a sense of empathy and giving in their child, seek out volunteer opportunities that can help your child understand the need to support one another in the community, country or globally.
Support a Cause as a Family
Bringing your family together to volunteer or support a cause is a great way to show kids the significance giving through your actions. Make sure to involve kids in the decision about what charity or organization you are going to lend your time or resources to. Some ideas include:
- Adopt a family to assist over the holidays through a local aid organization, and shop together to buy the things members of the family are wishing for.
- Host an event to collect warm socks and blankets for a local shelter or donations for the food bank.
- Collect pet food for the local SPCA.
- Limit the number of gifts you exchange as a family, and instead adopt a child in a third world country through an aid organization.
You can search registered charities on the Canada Revenue website to see how they spend donations, including how much goes to administration costs.
Make the Countdown Count
Another idea to help local organizations is to create a reverse Advent Calendar. The traditional advent calendar includes a treat to count down the days until Christmas. With the reverse advent calendar, you give something to someone else as you count down the days. Get a box or a basket, and each day, add an item to be donated to a local charity, shelter, or food bank. This is the perfect chance to donate non-expired food, clothing you bought or were given that have never been worn, or that toy you bought last year that is still in the box outside in the garage.
Please remember that during the holidays it’s nice to donate new or unused items. Anytime you donate, give items that are in good condition and you would like to receive yourself.
Give Each other ‘Time and Talent’
You can also reduce the focus on material gifts in the family by encouraging exchanges of ‘time and talent’. Family members can give committed time to help with jobs around the house, be technology free, do yard work or snow shoveling, prepare a favourite meal or baked good, or give the chance to choose the movie or game for family activity nights. Write out the talents you’re giving as coupon and make your own Holiday Coupon Book! Not only will you reduce the holiday bill, your kids will see firsthand how their contributions and talents can bring joy to someone else.
Author’s Bio: Moira McLean is a communications manager at Island Health with 20 years of experience as a television and radio journalist. She is a mom of twin boys, and loves to write about issues facing parents and kids.