Teaching your kids to give back

With the holiday's right around the corner, it becomes increasingly difficult not to get caught up in the typical madness of shopping, cooking, baking, decorating, entertaining, and traveling. All stuff that taken in the right context can be great fun, but often times ends up as the antithesis of the true meaning of the holiday season: giving. I am completely guilty of getting stressed over the little things this time of year, but this season is a great time to stop and remind ourselves and our little ones how fortunate we really are and how just a little time, money, and effort can make an enormously positive impact in someone else's life. And what better time to teach your child an invaluable lesson in the process?

Here are some easy ways that you and your family can make a difference this holiday season.

Give Time

While many of us are trying to cram various parties into our busy schedules and decide on the perfect menu for entertaining our holiday guests, some people go without a guest or a meal. Clear a day in your schedule to volunteer and bring your kids along to help. Call your local United Way or Salvation Army and ask for a list of homeless shelters and other agencies that serve food in your community, and then call each shelter to ask if you can volunteer. Contact your area Meals on Wheels to see if you can be of assistance in delivering food. (They will typically prefer that you volunteer at least once before, to prove yourself as a reliable volunteer, before signing you up for any days during the holidays.)

Give a Gift

When you are wracking your brain about what you should be getting someone as a holiday gift, remind yourself that some people would be happy with the warmth of a hand me down sweater. While your younger children are busy preparing a list of all of the shiny new toys that they want for Christmas, help them realize that some children would be happy with just one new toy. Maybe they can identify one toy on their Christmas list to donate through Toys for Tots. Another great children's organization is the Make A Wish foundation, which helps grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Even just dropping off a bag of clothes you no longer need to the local Salvation Army can keep someone warm in the colder months. This will hopefully help your young ones realize how fortunate they really are.

Give Love

Many times the best gift you can give is a little companionship or a warm hug. Call your local hospital and ask to speak with the volunteering coordinator. Ask them if it would be okay for you and your kids to make get well cards for all the children in the pediatric unit that will be there during the holidays. Visit a local nursing home and spend some time reading or singing with the patients. Many soldiers don't have an opportunity to come home and celebrate the holiday season with their friends and families. Even something as small as sending a letter or a care package will go a long way and help them feel loved during the holidays. The United Service Organization (USO) will deliver a package containing highly requested items like pre-paid international phone cards, toiletries and a personal message from a donor to the members of the U.S. Armed Forces deployed around the world.

What are some of the ways that you and your children are giving back this year?

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