My husband and I are always looking for ways to get our children into the giving spirit without forcing them. We want this to come natural to them, so they can grow up to be caring, compassionate, giving individuals. Every year we challenge them to come up with ways they can make a difference in someones life. This person can be anyone, including other members of the household. One thing I’ve learned having a big family, is teaching your children to respect themselves and their family makes it a lot easier for them to respect others in the world.
Another key element to this working is that Thanksgiving and Christmas are not the only times of the year to practice the art of giving. You do as you can when you can. It can be something as simple as tutoring a classmate or as grand as starting a coat drive for those who are not able to buy coats in the winter. You never know the difference you are making in someones life, your effort is priceless. Giving does not always have to be monetary or physical objects. Giving your time, attention, and lending a hand are also great ways to give.
My older children offer free babysitting to family members during the holiday season, to give them time to shop for Christmas. We have a large extended family and we choose a weekend in the month of December to offer free babysitting for anyone in my family who needs to Christmas shop. We order pizza and movies. We have a fun winter craft for them to do and we bake and decorate cookies and a gingerbread house. This brings so much joy into our home, to be able to do this for family. This is an all day event usually from 11 am until midnight. The kids are always excited and full of energy, they leave our home with all kinds of treats and fun memories. My older children were thinking of extending this offer to other months in the year, to offer family members free babysitting for date nights.
Give away toys
Once a year we collect all of the toys my children don’t play with that are in nice condition to donate to the salvation army or other local charities that collect toys. I know many people who also do this with their family and I think it’s a great way to give. One year we were lucky enough to donate our toys to a home day care program. The teacher who was starting the program was new to our neighborhood and she could not find a teaching position. She was a single mother and she needed an income. When we learned about her story, we made the decision to give toys and new arts and craft material to her program. Seeing the joy on her face made us so happy. We are always grateful when we can help someone in need.
Start a neighborhood club
My younger children started a club with their neighborhood friends. Their club was called “The Peace Club”. The club went around informing other children about bullying and giving them information to help them if they are being bullied. They meet once a month at one of the members home (parent supervised). The parents help the members do research on bullying and assist with making posters, fliers, t-shirts, whatever the club members are making that month to get the word out. They started out with four members and now they are up to ten. They would like to reach more people, but for now helping those they go to school with and others in the neighborhood is keeping them quite busy.
Support the troops
A fun way to show support and learn the act of giving is creating care packages for soldiers. We have had family members who were deployed express to us, how great it feels to receive a care package from home. We sent care packages to family members who were deployed, their friends, and we received a list from http://www.myarmyonesource.com/default.aspx. I’m not sure where to go for other branches but you can adopt a solider through an online program http://www.adoptaussoldier.org/index.php/site/adopt
Help those in the neighborhood
Do you have senior citizens in your neighborhood that can use some help around the inside or outside of their house. Lend a hand. I do not send my children alone to do this. I make sure myself or my husband go with my children to help our neighbors out. They would usually help with raking, shoveling, watering plants, taking pets on walks, or doing some minor errands for them. My younger children like to send handmade cards to our elderly neighbors. We also like to make dinners or baked goods and spend some time talking and getting to know them. This can also be accomplished at senior or retirement home.
Find a charity to support
As a family, supporting a charity can be an eye opening experience. There are so many charities and causes, it can be overwhelming. I started out by asking my children what their interest are and where would they look to see change. They were very general and my husband and I had to get them to be more specific. We showed the different charities and what they do for others. This is time consuming, but well worth it in the end. My children had the opportunity to learn about other children their ages who had started charities and how they were making a difference in the lives of others. They were inspired, but more than anything it made them more compassionate. Because this is a big decision we started out supporting the charities their schools were already supporting. We plan to let them venture out of their comfort zone soon and pursue charities they feel a connection with.
Start their own charity
Starting your own charity can be a long consuming process, but it is well worth it in the end as well. If you are up for the challenge, go for it, think of all the lives you will impact. You can also start a small charity where there are no monetary donations given. Most times these efforts are called drives that support a cause for a short period of time. We have hosted book drives, clothing drives, and our favorite blanket and a bear drive. We collected these items and provided it to a charity or program in need. In the states I believe to start a charity you will need a 501 c 3. This will allow you to take monetary donations and receive tax breaks on items specifically for your charity.