At this time of year, kids are busy making lists of all the toys they want
for holiday gifts. But how about making a list of things they can give
to others? While showing charity and generosity to others is something
children—and their parents—can do year round, the holiday
season offers many opportunities for kids to see it is better to give
than to receive.
“Studies have shown that generosity towards others has health benefits,
such as increasing happiness by triggering the pleasure centers of the
brain, lowering stress, and lengthening life span,” says
Sandra Mathur, DO, a pediatrician at
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group in Diamond Bar. “Children can reap those benefits, as well as learn
the importance of empathy, sharing and showing grace to others by freely
giving of themselves without expecting anything in return.”
Dr. Mathur offers some ideas on how your children can help others this
holiday season. “Whatever you and your child decide to do, make
sure it’s a team effort. You are your child’s main role model,
and if she sees you giving your time or money, she’s more apt to
do it, too. Odds are, you’ll have such a great time that you’ll
want to find more volunteer opportunities throughout the rest of the year.”
Help feed the hungry. Soup kitchens, homeless shelters, community food banks and other organizations
that give food to the needy are always looking for donations. Go shopping
with your child expressly to pick out food donations and let her select
the items from the organization’s wish list. Let her box up the
food and deliver it with you. Older kids and their families may also want
to consider serving a meal at a facility for the homeless, which allows
kids a more personal connection to the people they are helping.
Play Santa. A popular holiday initiative for charities and churches allows you to
fulfill a family’s wish list for the holidays. Volunteers get a
list of a family’s members, their ages and genders, and their gift
preferences, and then they go shopping. “This can be a fun activity
for kids, especially if the family you are shopping for has a child close
to their age. They can be more invested in picking out the right gifts,”
Dr. Mathur says.
Share their toys. Savvy parents know that the pre-holiday period is ideal for cleaning out
old toys and books in preparation for the new gifts that will be coming.
Find a list of organizations that accept used toy, book and clothing donations,
and let your child pick one. “Make sure your child selects used
toys that are still in good condition and aren’t missing key parts,”
Dr. Mathur says.
Go for a drive. With the season’s colder weather, socks, blankets, scarves and jackets
are always welcome at nonprofits that help the homeless and those in need.
“You can help your child organize a drive to collect those items
at school, church or in your neighborhood,” Dr. Mathur says.
Bake someone happy. Who doesn’t love a batch of homemade treats at the holidays? “Making
cookies for local police or firefighters, for instance, teaches your child
to show appreciation, while you get to spend some fun family time together
baking,” Dr. Mathur says.
Make it personal. Find a way to tie in your child’s interests to a service project.
“If your child loves animals, talk to her about collecting items
for the local animal shelter, or encourage her to save a portion of her
allowance that she can donate,” Dr. Mathur says. “It will
make the experience that much more powerful,” Dr. Mathur says.
How do you teach your children to help others during the holidays? Share
a comment below.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.