As the winter holidays approaches, it seems as though the entire world works itself into a frenzy of giving, both financially and in other ways. Regardless of your family’s traditions or spiritual beliefs, the winter holidays can be a great time of year to teach one of the most valuable lessons you can teach your children: how to love.
Set The Example
We constantly tell our children to be nice, to be polite, to share, to give, to be kind. But as with any other lesson, it is important to set the example you want your children to emulate. The winter holidays are a time for giving, loving and sharing; to teach this to your children, it’s important to get them involved with giving, loving and sharing with the community.
Unfortunately, it can be a lot harder to find ways to give when you are keeping a strict budget. Cold and wet weather are also seen as deterrents to volunteering, especially when dealing with small children. Yet, there are a lot of ways to get your kids in the mind frame of giving back without having to brave freezing temperatures or spend a fortune.
Here are a few key points to remember when seeking volunteer opportunities with your children:
- Focus on the message. To start brain-storming ideas for your children, begin by zeroing in on exactly what you want to teach them. Why do you think that it is important to volunteer? How you answer that question will impact the activities you choose. For example, if your family is religious, you may want to choose an activity with a religious message. Look for an organization with religion-related events.
- Find something fun! If you choose tedious, boring work for you children to partake in, you may be inadvertently teaching them that volunteering is tedious and boring. These jobs, such as sorting clothes or sitting at a booth, are still important; but you may want to start the experience with fun activities and gradually sprinkle in these less exciting opportunities.
- Be prepared to field questions from your children. Helping out in a soup kitchen can be a lot of fun, but younger children won’t understand the concept of not having a home. Do some thinking before taking your children to places like this, and be prepared with answers in advance so you aren’t caught off guard. This also goes for domestic violence shelters, terminally-ill hospital wards, or any particularly heart-wrenching situation. These places are what make volunteering so special: but it is a heavy message to teach. Don’t necessarily shy away from it, but prepare yourself and your children as best as you can, which may mean waiting another year or so.
- Make home-made holiday cards for residents of a nursing home or hospital.
- Play with Animals. Take your children to the local Humane Society and spend an hour playing with the animals.
- Pick out a toy to take to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. All of these activities cost relatively little, but teach a clear and positive message.
If you do decide that you want to do an activity that costs more money, get your children involved in a family piggy bank dedicated to the holiday season. Even a dollar a week can buy Thanksgiving dinner for several families, a winter coat for a child in need, or mittens for dozens of children.
Do you volunteer with your children? How did you teach the value of giving back?
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