As parents, we know that in today's world of bigger, better, and more, it can be difficult for many kids to understand the importance of sharing and giving to others. We want our kids to be compassionate and caring and realize that not all children and families have as much as we do. How can we share and give back to families in our community in ways that are respectful, kind and meaningful?
Some families take time during the holidays and even throughout the year to donate time, money, gifts and even skills and expertise to neighbours, friends and strangers in our community. Sometimes the activities are big and bold but even the smallest and simplest of acts can bring meaning to your family's experience of giving back. This list provides a few ideas about ways that your family might like to support others in our community:
1. Local Food Drives—As a family, do some research to find out what types of food your local Food Bank needs. Dry goods? Canned goods? Produce? Then, head to the grocery store together to fill up a basket or paper bag with the goods that were recommended. Most grocery stores have a box where you can leave your donation. Or if you have the time, you could make a trip to the Food Bank to drop off the goods as a family.
2. Community Clean Up Walk--Earth Day in April is often the time of year when community groups across the city organize clean up events. These events are a great way to get involved with others in your neighbourhood to do good work together. Of course, there is nothing stopping us from being clean and green all year long. Before heading out on a family walk or visit to the playground why not grab a bag to pick up some garbage along the way. Be sure to have a discussion with your kids about what is safe and unsafe to pick up.
3. Holiday Hampers-- Why not find an organization in your community that has a holiday hamper program in which your family can 'adopt' another family by purchasing items on their gift list? Before you head out to shop, plan a budget, review the family's wish list, look at store flyers and explore the purchases you want to make. When you wrap the presents and drop them off, there should be lots of time to talk about what you have learned and how it feels to help another family.
4. Charity Run, Walk, Golf Tournament--So many charities today raise funds through activities and events that you can do as a family. Find a cause that is close to your family's heart to see if they have a run, walk or other event that you can get involved with. Raise funds together and enjoy some quality time when you participate in the fun. Another great thing about this idea is that it isn’t just for holiday times; charity activities like these take place all year long.
5. Visit a Seniors' Home--Here's another activity that you can do anytime of year. Find a Seniors' Residence near your home and find out how your family can support the residents. Perhaps they need volunteers to help out at a Saturday afternoon board games program. Maybe you have a very social dog, cat or bird that could provide some good pet therapy. What about singing, dancing or playing piano at a performance...so many options.
6. Book Donations--See if your local library or bookstore collects books for children in your community. How fun would it be to spend time with your kids finding classic, treasured, and family favourite picture books, novels and stories to share with others?!
7. Prepare and Serve a Meal—Each year at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, local Missions and Shelters look for volunteers to help cook and prepare a turkey dinner. Why not make it a family event and offer your services to those who otherwise might not get a festive meal. Or why not make your family’s favourite casserole or pasta dish for a neighbour or friend who just got home from the hospital or even one who has a new baby at home.
8. Help an Elderly Neighbour--Bundle up, grab some rakes and head outside to gather up the leaves on a neighbour's lawn before the snow flies. After a big snow storm shovel their walkway or car, try ringing their doorbell to see if you can do anything else to help out. Be sure to take time to talk about how your caring efforts helped out your neighbour. How did it make you feel to give back?
9. Boxing Day Purge--Families that celebrate Christmas often have to make room for all the new treats and toys they receive on December 25th. Why not engage your kids in choosing which of their toys, games, puzzles they would like to pass along to other children so they can make room for their new treasures. Talk about who might like the items you are donating? How old should the child be? Are the toys you are giving away appropriate for both girls and boys? Are the puzzles and games something that parents and children could play with together? Who should you give them to?
10. Instead of Receiving Gifts, Make a Donation--Host a party during the holiday season or to celebrate a family birthday. Rather than gifts, ask your guests to bring a donation for the local women's shelter, humane society or other charity of choice. Include your kids in party planning by researching the items that the shelter needs, creating handmade thank you notes for party guests and delivering the donations together.
Not only can the experience of giving back as a family teach our kids about compassion and caring for others in our community, it enhances family bonds and builds skills that can last a lifetime. What does your family do to give back?