Monday, November 25

A TO Z holiday giving for kids

With so many messages bombarding us to hit the stores and buy, buy, buy, it can be hard to re-focus on a deeper meaning of the holiday season.  One way to tune out the noise of consumerism is to get involved in giving back to others through community service or philanthropy. 

The holiday season is the perfect time to "shop" for a worthwhile cause that suits your family. Whether it's adopting an animal at your local zoo or aquarium, sponsoring a child in a developing country, rounding up canned goods for charity or visiting a senior center, you don't have to look far to find meaningful ways to show genuine charity. 

The holidays can be a stressful time for children as well as parents.  There's so much going on. The expectations are high.  And Santa is making his list and checking it twice!  Slowing down and connecting with others in the community is a great way to bring some normalcy to the season.  

As surprising as it may seem to parents who are keeping track of their kids' ever-expanding holiday wish lists, children get a huge kick out of giving--they just need to be introduced to the habit by an adult who has experienced the joy of giving and wants to pass it along. It's contagious!

There are so many benefits for children who are socially conscious. KidsHealth lists these perks:
  • A sense of responsibility. By volunteering, kids learn what it means to make and keep a commitment. They learn how to be on time for a job, do their best, and be proud of the results. But they also learn that, ultimately, we're all responsible for the well-being of our communities.
  • That one person can make a difference. A wonderful, empowering message for kids is that they're important enough to have an impact on someone or something else.
  • The benefit of sacrifice. By giving up a toy to a less fortunate child, a child learns that sometimes it's good to sacrifice. Cutting back on recreation time to help clean up a beach tells kids that there are important things besides ourselves and our immediate needs.
  • Tolerance. Working in community service can bring kids and teens in touch with people of different backgrounds, abilities, ethnicities, ages, and education and income levels. They'll learn that even the most diverse individuals can be united by common values.
  • Job skills. Community service can help young people decide on their future careers. Are they interested in the medical field? Hospitals and clinics often have teenage volunteer programs. Do they love politics? Kids can work on the real campaigns of local political candidates. Learning to work as a team member, taking on leadership roles, setting project goals — these are all skills that can be gained by volunteering and will serve kids well in any future career.
  • How to fill idle time wisely. If kids aren't involved in traditional after-school activities, community service can be a wonderful alternative.
You can feel confident about being generous when you research charities in advance through Charity Navigator.  The site ranks non-profits on a variety of things including how much of your donation goes to provide goods or services and how much is spent on overhead.  To get ideas for family friendly volunteering, check out this e-book from Volunteer Spot.

This time next year that must-have gift of the season will be long forgotten but the values and memories made by getting involved in giving back will last a lifetime.

Image credit:
Contributed by Danyelle, Fairmont Private Schools

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