Like most things since March 2020, Christmas is a little bit different this year. There are fewer holiday-themed events and parties happening around town. Visits to see Santa are socially distanced. Many church services are still online. The usual hustle and bustle of the holiday season is much slower paced this year.
Although the real reason for Christmas can never be canceled, it is still hard to see our annual traditions being changed or skipped this year. In this blog post I want to share ways that you can turn this quieter season into a positive experience, including having more family time to really teach your children about the joys of giving to others.
Giving Is Actually Good for Your Child’s Health and Emotional Development
Many years ago there was an episode of the television series Friends that focused on the concept of how there is no such thing as a selfless act. Their theory was that something selfless still feels good, which is a reward of its own. And even though the show is a comedy, they really had a point. Not only does the act of giving back or helping someone in need feel good emotionally, but there are also health benefits.
According to Cleveland Clinic, the physical benefits of giving back include “lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem, less depression, lower stress levels, and greater happiness and satisfaction.” And according to information from Dartmouth University, kindness produces the feel-good hormones oxytocin and serotonin, and your brain gives you what is called a helper’s high.
Children learn important emotions like empathy and to appreciate people from different backgrounds than their own. Sometimes they learn new skills or find something that they are passionate about doing. They learn about gratitude and being appreciative of the people and things that they have in their life. In some instances, children will meet people who they might not otherwise have met, who live much different lifestyles than they do. All of these experiences help children grow into adults with a giving mindset and heart.
Conversations to Have with Children While Volunteering
Volunteering with your child is a great way to also have conversations with them about the charity or group that you are helping. Not only do you get to spend time together working on a project, but you can teach them about the mission they are supporting. Of course, the conversation will vary depending on the age of your child, but even young children can understand that some people need a little help from time to time.
Ways to Give Back This Holiday Season
Here are seven ways that you can include your child in giving back to others in need this season.
Holiday Shopping for Children in Need
There are a variety of places where you can help children receive holiday presents. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and Salvation Army Angel Tree program are among the well-known places to donate toys and gifts. Samaritan’s Purse allows you to build a shoebox full of special items for children overseas. You and your child can choose items together from your computer and add a personalized note while staying at home. You can also find out about families in need from your church or other local religious institutions in your area.
Writing Letters to Local Firefighters, Police Officers, and Medical Personnel
You and your child can sit down together to write thank you notes or holiday cards to local firefighters, police officers, and medical personnel at local hospitals. For safety reasons, instead of homemade baked goods, you can drop the notes or cards off with store bought bakery items, pre-packaged cheese and crackers, or gift cards for coffee shops, ice cream shops, or local pizza restaurants.
Volunteer for Remote Projects through Points of Light
Points of Light is a global network of charitable organizations from around the world. You can browse through a variety of projects that need volunteers. Filter results to find remote or in-person, and then search for all projects or specific types of projects. Although these opportunities are for adults, you can involve your children in a variety of ways depending on their age and the function that you will do for the charity. Learn more at their website https://www.pointsoflight.org/get-involved.
Pre-Christmas Toy and Clothing Cleanout
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, work with your child on going through their own toy-chest or playroom to find toys that they no longer play with or have outgrown. You can do the same thing with their closet for clothes that they have outgrown. They can help you prepare them to be donated and go with you to the donation center of your choice and learn about how donating gently used items can help others in need.
Help Animals in Need
You and your child can help animals in need by donating items from their wish list. Municipal shelters often need donations like paper towels, pet food, cleaning supplies, pet treats, and other supply items. If you are an experienced pet owner and you can do so, you can also foster pets in your home until they can find their forever home. Foster based animal rescues are different from municipal shelters in that they are entirely run by volunteers and funded exclusively from donations and adoption fees. The more foster homes they have for pets, the more pets they can save.
Volunteer for Organizations that Benefit Foster Children
There are several organizations that work to improve the lives of children in foster care. Together We Rise has programs to create suitcases and travel bags for kids so that they do not need to transport their possessions in garbage bags. They also offer the opportunity to create birthday boxes and superhero boxes.
You can also find a list of Foster Closets, where you can donate new or gently used clothing and other items for children in foster homes. The Foster Coalition has a list of local foster closets: https://www.fostercoalition.com/foster-care-closets.
The Foster Coalition website also has a variety of other ways you can help. There are programs for sending care packages to college students who were previously in foster homes and for donating comfort cases and other supplies.
Partner with Local Charities
Here in the Chicago Suburbs, there are some great charities that you can partner with that help children. The 3:11 Project helps families that are struggling to provide necessities. Their needs vary, from physical supplies like cleaning supplies or clothing, to funds to pay bills to keep families in their homes.
Camp Out from Cancer provides care packages with all the supplies for an indoor camping experience to children battling cancer. These care packages provide a fun way for pediatric cancer patients to get their minds off treatments and hospital stays and to just be a kid.
The My Super Powers Foundation is a new charity that meets the social emotional needs of children in underserved areas through classes, books, and events. They have opportunities designed for kids to give back to the community through volunteer work. This was a project for a local animal shelter making blankets for the dogs and the fun of delivering them to the puppies.
Feed My Starving Children is an organization that provides food for children all over the world. Families and individuals can volunteer in Aurora to pack boxes for shipment. This organization is has created Covid-19 safety measures so that volunteers can still pack boxes during the pandemic.
You can search in community groups on Facebook for local charities in your area. Great NonProfits has a search tool where you can search for non-profits in your zip code. To review whether or not a charity is a good fit for your time and donations, check out www.charitynavigator.org.