By: Ann Saylor
The holiday season is now behind us, but there are still many opportunities for families to help others. Instead of teaching children to focus on the gifts they have received these past weeks, teach them to share the gift of service with people in your community. Serving others can also empower youth, strengthen positive identities, build social competencies, and unify families.
Your family might choose to serve a meal at a homeless shelter, decorate cards for prisoners, or help children make crafts for their families. You could host a game night at an assisted living facility or bake cookies for firefighters. The possibilities are endless!
Volunteering doesn’t have to be “just another thing” on your to-do list this month. It can be a natural outflow of your family’s interests and talents, and a great way to build family memories. Here are some steps to get you started:
1. Ask family members about their skills, talents and passions—what do they love to do? Your list might include basketball, painting, singing, or playing games. Or organizing, hospitality, and making new friends.
2. Ask them what they would like to see change in the community (or neighborhood or school). You might hear interest areas such as helping the homeless, helping people with physical challenges, helping children learn to read, putting an end to bullying, or breaking up school cliques.
3. See where family strengths and community needs overlap, and start with a simple service project.
- If your children like music and they are concerned about loneliness in nursing homes, plan a time to go sing with friends at a local nursing home.
- If your family loves sports and they are concerned about their peers getting involved in negative activities, ask a recreation center if you can host a family sports night at the gym this winter.
- If your family has a tradition of playing board games or solving puzzles, call a homeless shelter to see if you can host a game night after an evening meal.
- If you have an artistic family, you might paint a mural at church, at school, or at a community center.
- If you love the outdoors, you might pick up trash on a hiking excursion.
We all have unique skills and talents—how will you use your gifts to make a difference during this season and throughout the year?