The holiday season is filled with opportunities for children to be caring and compassionate. And for parents, it starts with showing your kids how it’s done! Let your children see you helping elderly neighbors rake their leaves, being kind to those around you in crowded stores or collecting canned goods for the hungry.
Right before Thanksgiving, we celebrate Family Volunteer Day. On Nov. 23 this year, it is a day that showcases families making a difference in their communities and kicks off the season of giving. Here are five easy ways to teach your kids values – and do some good for others – on Family Volunteer Day and throughout the year.
1. Talk to your children about issues affecting your neighborhood, your community and the world. When my oldest son was in elementary school and was involved in a holiday food drive, he didn't immediately see why people needed help at all. His initial reaction was, “They just need to go get a job!” In simple language, I explained about income versus expenses and how the very people we were helping to feed may be working several jobs but still are short for food. As a young problem-solver, he thought for a while and then suggested ideas for how our country might deal with hunger in new ways. He got it!
2. Use the dinner hour to talk about reaching out to others. Do you have a neighbor that may be sick or lonely? Are there struggling families in your community? Do you know someone in the service who is deployed? Talk to your children about how they feel about these situations and get their input on ways your family can help.
3. Appeal to your children’s interests. Does your family love the outdoors? Do your kids like to get their hands dirty? Try volunteering for a park or beach clean-up or help plant a community garden. The more you draw on your children’s interests, the more motivated they become.
5. Start a family tradition of volunteer service during the holidays. The holidays are times of excitement, tradition and family togetherness. When our children were younger, we would make Holiday Hope Chests to donate to area homeless shelters. It was fun to watch the kids choose with care their special gifts for children they imagined opening the boxes on Christmas morning.
When the holidays end and the new year begins, remember every day is an opportunity to teach your kids to care and share, be compassionate and have an attitude of gratitude for even the smallest things in life.
This year Family Volunteer Day takes place on Nov. 23. Disney Friends For Change, a Disney initiative dedicated to inspiring kids and families to make a positive change in the world, is the presenting sponsor of Family Volunteer Day 2013. Embassy Suites is a supporting sponsor.