Holiday Helpers: Volunteering as a Family
Wish lists. Homemade cookies. Gift buying. Tree decorating. Party planning. The holidays are a busy time, filled with traditions. Why not make family volunteering one of them? As you celebrate the spirit of the season, you will also be passing down valuable lessons to your children.
Here are some ways that you can easily and meaningfully mix volunteering into your family’s annual traditions:
Cookies & Gratitude
Kids truly embrace the spirit of the holidays. It’s not just the sugar that feeds their frenzy. They get excited about preparations, gift giving and the anticipation of others’ joy. When baking cookies for teachers and neighbors, make an extra batch for your children to share with the mail carrier, package delivery drivers, custodians, crossing guards or the garbage and recycling collectors. You will be teaching gratitude for the people that serve others throughout the year.
Crafts & Caring
While you sit at the table to address that large stack of holiday cards, pull out the stickers, stamps, markers and construction paper for your young artist to craft homemade cards. Your child can hand these out as gifts, include them with homemade goodies or slip them in packages for the homeless filled with food and necessities. When your children give their cards to others, they will witness the impact that kindness and caring for others can have.
Gifts & Generosity
While you are out holiday shopping, ask your kids to choose one or two extra presents to donate to a toy drive. They can also select a gift card, a coat or canned goods to add to a donation drive to brighten another family’s holiday. Older children can volunteer to wrap gifts or sort food at the local food bank. These small actions go a long way in teaching empathy and generosity.
Carols & Community
Sing Christmas songs! Bundle up, fill the thermos with hot chocolate or apple cider and gather your neighbors. Then pay a visit to someone who might be lonely and would appreciate a bit of holiday cheer. Kids will see how simple it is to spread joy.
Sleigh Rides & Sustenance
If you have time to spare and eager elves, load up in your sleigh to deliver much-needed gifts of food. Several local organizations need helpers to make deliveries to the elderly, disabled or students who will miss out on school meals over the winter break. Young children bearing these gifts can make the occasion even merrier. At the same time, you will be teaching about the importance of food security and how communities can support each other.
Helpers & Happiness
One way to add to the fun and feel the power of community is to join a group dedicated to making the world better for those in need. Several nonprofits offer ways for families to get involved, such as Any Baby Can, Austin Allies, Round Rock Serving Center and Generation Serve. Check their online calendars for kid-friendly opportunities.
It may seem overwhelming to add yet another activity to your lengthy list of things to do at this time of year, yet you can easily work volunteering into what you are already doing to celebrate the season. You and your children will likely find that your holidays are happier for it too.
Annette Lucksinger is the editor of Austin Family magazine. She is also a mom of two and author of the local guidebook “Exploring Austin with Kids: Over 100 Fun Things to Do.”