It's the time of the year again! The season of joy and goodwill is finally here. Instead of buying presents, why don't we offer our time and kindness to volunteering? To quote a line from a famous Christmas song: "No better gift is there than love." That's right, no material thing will ever surpass what the gift of love can bring.
Giving back is a perfect way to spread the holiday cheer. The good news is you can be a catalyst for an altruistic deed together with your kids. Remember, your children only get one childhood. So why not make the most out of this special moment? Make this one something that you and your children will cherish forever.
Where to volunteer?
To start, you can first identify specific organizations, communities, or causes that your children are interested in or care about. Ask them what kind of service project they wish to participate in. To give you more ideas, below are some volunteer opportunities you and your kids can do together in your own little ways.
1. Volunteer at a children's hospital and allow your kids to experience first-hand what it is like to be of service to others.
Bring your kids when buying meals for the patients and let them assist you with preparing or handing it out. Encourage them also to read their favorite bedtime stories to the other children. You can also have them stay by your side while asking child patients how their day is going, gently talking gently to them, and hearing their stories. By simply listening to what they share with you, you and your kids will realize you are gaining as much as you are giving. You pick up profound life lessons from these young patients’ personal experiences.
2. Run a cookie or a lemonade stand and donate the proceeds to an orphanage or a charity of your children's choosing.
One of the countless ways to get in the loop of your children's lives is to hang out with them while preparing lemonades or cookies for a cause. Then, during the cookies or lemonades sale time, you are sure to spend hours with them at the table and would have the best talks of your life.
3. Create custom cards for the elders.
Kids love their grandparents! Why not extend the love to the grandmas and grandpas living in nursing homes? Encourage your children to write personalized cards that will paint a smile on their faces. Everyone gets excited and brightens up when receiving heartfelt letters.
4. Organize your own book collection drive or volunteer at a library in your local community.
Convince your children and their friends to give back by collecting their gently used books and donating them for children at orphanages, schools, or libraries.
5. Collect pet toys and volunteer at your local animal shelter.
It is also important to consider your children's interests. If your kids happen to have an interest in becoming a vet someday or simply love animals, let them explore how it feels like working in the same environment related to their interest. Having the chance to work with the animals will provide them a deeper understanding and appreciation of other creatures living in the world as well.
How volunteering is beneficial to young people
Several studies have shown that children who volunteer are more likely to exhibit higher levels of motivation and interest in learning. Moreover, engaging them in volunteer works at an early age will help them build their character and grow with a strong sense of moral responsibility.
Based on the findings of John Wilson and Marc Musick, authors of The Effects of Volunteering on the Volunteer, "getting youth interested in volunteer work has been promoted as a way of teaching new attitudes and behavior."
With a data source from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Daniel Hart and Robert Atkins found that adolescents engaged in voluntary projects had a lesser chance of getting involved in five of seventeen "problem behaviors."
Similar data from the Michigan Study of Adolescent Life Transitions Survey indicate that delinquency among younger people can be avoided through volunteer work. Students who participated in voluntary services were more likely to be kept away from high-risk behavior like cutting classes and using drugs.
Helpful effects of volunteering on adults
Meanwhile, parents like you are also proven to reap rewards from volunteering with your kids. In a study published online by LSE Staff, researchers examined how activities such as engaging in volunteer work could lead to greater well-being. The data they gathered suggest that volunteers manifest healthier lifestyles and a greater sense of happiness compared with non-volunteers. Doing voluntary labors contributes to one's self-fulfillment level.
Another report by HelpGuide supports this finding. Researchers at the London School of Economics found that the more people volunteered, the happy they were, with reference to a study in Social Science and Medicine. It was also revealed that "the odds of being 'very happy' rose 7% among those who volunteer monthly and 12% for people who volunteer every two to four weeks" compared with people who never volunteered.
Giving back to the community help protects both your mental and physical health in ways no other activity can. Previous studies revealed that people who offer their time is less prone to loneliness and depression because they are more socially connected. In addition, people who serve and donate their time are rewarded with better physical wellness such as lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan.
Volunteerism works both ways – it benefits more than just the less fortunate but benefits you and your loved ones as well!
A family who volunteers together, stays happy together
By participating in a volunteer activity with your children, you are not only teaching them to be givers, you are also cultivating a stronger bond within your family. During a volunteering activity, there will be a lot of engagement between you and them such as chatting, sharing of laughter, and even working as a team to reach the goal you've set. When both parents and kids are involved directly, there always comes a sense of feeling good in the end after finishing the job where you collectively pour your time and energy into. That makes the whole family develop a deeper appreciation of what they have and be more mindful of the needs of other people.
There are a hundred ways to volunteer. It's your altruism and genuine act of kindness as a family that matters. Saint Teresa of Calcutta, otherwise known as Mother Teresa, once surmised that "we cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love." In your own simple ways, spread love and be the reason of someone's smile this yuletide season.