The holiday season is quickly approaching, which means it’s time for big meals, family get-togethers, and festive decorations. During all the happy chaos, however, we also need to remember that it’s a season for giving.
As a parent, it can be challenging to shift your children’s focus from their own Christmas wish lists to the thoughts and desires of others. But there are ways to get the entire family to focus on generosity. Giving back as a family makes a positive impact not only on your community, but also on you as a unit and as individuals.
So get in the giving spirit. This holiday season, find some new volunteer opportunities and other wonderful ways of helping others.
1. Remember Military Personnel This Time of Year
Imagine spending the festive holiday season thousands of miles from your loved ones. Unfortunately, this is the reality for some service members and their families.
Your own family can get involved by volunteering for the American Red Cross Holidays for Heroes Program. It’s a great way to thank and recognize members of the military, veterans, and their families through a variety of activities, including by writing letters to service members stationed overseas.
2. Start a Pajama or Book Drive in Your Community
For families facing hardships, the holiday season can be particularly challenging. Consider starting a pajama or book drive in your community. This is an initiative that supports children while offering comfort and warmth to the people most in need.
The Pajama Program has all the information you need to organize a successful donation drive aimed at children age 12 and under. Reach out to local businesses for donations, and leverage social media to get your friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors involved in this heartwarming cause.
3. Commit to Performing Acts of Kindness
Small acts of kindness can have a big impact on those who receive them. Your family can celebrate the holidays by dedicating some time or even an entire day to acts of kindness. Here are a few ideas:
- Tape quarters to a soda or vending machine.
- Assist someone with paying for their groceries.
- Leave a kind note in a library book or another secret location.
- Promote local volunteer opportunities on your social media pages.
- Offer to volunteer at a local animal shelter or a soup kitchen.
- Donate cash to your local food bank, or give gently used items to a homeless shelter.
- Join a Buy Nothing group, and gift outgrown toys or extra items from your household to people who need them.
- Shovel snow from your neighborhood sidewalks, or from the driveway of a neighbor who would appreciate it.
- Gather up high-quality books from your home and donate them to Little Free Libraries in your community.
4. Pay a Visit to a Local Nursing Home
Many elderly residents in nursing homes lack regular visitors, which can make the holidays that much more lonely.
Take some time to visit a nursing home as a family. Contact the nursing home you intend to visit to see if there are any open volunteer activities, such as helping out with a craft or bingo night.
In some cases your presence alone can be a gift. Of course, many nursing homes also will accept a tray of cookies, some holiday cards, or gently used books, which would make the residents’ holidays even brighter. This simple act of kindness may be the only gift some residents receive this holiday season.
5. Encourage Kids to Find a New Lunch Buddy at School
Want to find a new way to support children? Make sure your child is a supportive child. Encourage them to discover a new “lunch buddy” at school.
They can start by seeking out a classmate who is sitting alone and asking them if they’d like some company. If your child is nervous about this, they can enlist a few kind friends to join them. This is an important way to ease social isolation for kids, and your child might even make some new friends.
6. Support Local Farmers and Small Businesses
Consider shopping locally to support the small businesses and farmers in your own community. When you purchase from local artisans, crafters, and farmers’ markets, you contribute to your community’s economy. Money spent at local businesses tends to stay within the local economy, creating a cycle of economic benefits.
Not only that, but you will have the opportunity to give unique, handcrafted gifts during the holiday season. And you will get to meet some of the business owners and creators who give your community its unique character.
7. Organize an Event for Charity
Here’s an idea: How about hosting a bake sale with your family, and then donating the proceeds to a local charity or homeless shelter? Baking together can be a fun and rewarding activity that teaches your children the joy of giving, as well as the joy of making something with their hands. As a bonus, these treats can make someone else’s holiday season a little sweeter.
Or how about becoming a drop-off location for your local Toys for Tots efforts? You can also sign up to host your own Toys for Tots event in your community. There are many opportunities around the holidays to join up with community organizations and businesses and volunteer your time to help support charity events in your community.
8. Give Directly to a Family
Use this festive season to give to another family. You can do this literally by dressing up as Santa and his elves and spreading Christmas cheer—or you can do it by “adopting” a family’s or children’s Christmas list and then fulfilling it.
You’re likely to discover that your kids actually enjoy shopping for others when it’s sort of a scavenger hunt for wish list items. They can also help wrap gifts, adding little notes or personal touches. If appropriate, consider taking them with you to drop off the gifts. This can give older children an immense sense of accomplishment and feelings of joy.
There Are So Many Ways to Give Back
The positive impact you and your family can take from being generous this holiday season are limitless—as are the ways to give back. Through these kind acts, you can impact so many lives, those of children, animals, local small business owners, the unhoused, senior citizens, and families that have fallen on hard times.
So give giving a try this holiday season. You may just come to find that it’s your most cherished holiday tradition.