Teach Your Kids how to Give Back this Holiday Season

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Any time is a great time for families to talk to their children about giving back and helping those who are less fortunate. Whether you’re celebrating a holiday, special occasion, or still haven’t figured out your 2015 resolution, make giving back part of the conversation – from making financial donations to volunteering time and energy, giving can be easy and enjoyable.

As parents who want your children to be well-rounded, caring citizens, leading by example is important. Getting involved in a giving-back project as a family can help your kids learn good values. Here are some great projects your family can take on together:

1. Organize a food drive – The winter months can be tough on food pantries. If your children are involved in a club or organization, help them organize a food drive with their peers. You can even ask your neighbors to get involved. Have your children draft a letter that will inform the neighbors about what you’re doing, when you’ll be picking up food, and what kinds of food are most needed by the pantry. Be sure to encourage your children to thank everyone who donates food.

2. Volunteer – There are so many ways your children can put their efforts toward volunteering. For older children who are able to shovel snow, rake leaves or mow lawns, have them connect with a neighbor or family friend who is housebound or on vacation. Younger children can help with keeping the community clean, too. Head out to a park to pick up litter and recycle cans and plastic bottles. Or connect with a nursing home and ask if there is a resident who would like a weekly visit; maybe they would enjoy a chance to play board or card games with your children.

3. Make giving relatable, measureable and meaningful – Explain to your children the benefits of donating money to highly reputable organizations (check Charity Navigator ratings to ensure your dollars will be responsibly managed) that help others in need, especially organizations that help children. For example, Vitamin Angels helps support children who don’t have the opportunity to eat a variety of healthy, nutritious foods their bodies need.

An estimated 190 million children under the age of 5 suffer from vitamin-A deficiency, which can lead to weakened immune systems, childhood blindness and even death. With Vitamin Angels, a $.25 donation can help provide a child in need the vitamin A he or she requires to help prevent vitamin-A deficiency for one year. One quarter, one child. An easy contribution from your child’s piggy bank or make a donation yourself to show your children how together, the entire family can make a difference. Visit give.vitaminangels.org to learn more about the organization and how far a donation will go toward helping other children.

4. Get crafty – Let your children’s talents turn into something good for others. For example, they can create holiday cards to be delivered to service members while they are overseas and away from their friends and family. The same kinds of cards can also be sent to patients who need some cheering up while in the hospital. If your children knit or sew, have them make blankets, scarves, hats and mittens for people who might need some warmer clothing.

5. Clean out the closet – Before or after a big gift-giving holiday, cleaning the house and eliminating some of the toys is a high priority. Ask your children to go through the clothes they’ve outgrown and the toys they no longer play with. They can fill a box with the items they no longer need and you can help them donate everything to an organization that will put them to good use.

Giving back to the community as a family can bring you closer together and provide a platform to reinforce positive moral values during a season so often focused on materialism (or materialistic wants). So give these ideas a try now and year round and see what good things your family – especially your children – can accomplish.

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