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Making the Holidays Meaningful with Your Family

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Nov 14, 2016
by Stacy DeCicco

The holidays are upon us and many of us are already feeling that  "so much to do, over committed, overwhelmed, not enough hours in the day" kind of deja vous.   Holiday seasons that are meant to be peaceful and meaningful all too often begin to feel chaotic and exhausting.  What if I told you there was something you could do this holiday season that would make you feel like you had more hours in the day, while also increasing self-confidence, improving physical health, and creating family memories?

Does it simply sound too good to be true? It isn't!  Studies consistently tell us that when people volunteer-carving out even a small amount of time in their day to help someone else-they experience feelings of efficiency and competence. In other words, when you give time, you feel like you have more time. 

Several studies have shown that children who are given the opportunity to volunteer, experience countless positive effects including high scholastic achievement and increased self-esteem.  There is also research linking youth volunteerism to a higher quality of life as an adult, and even showing that families who focus more on the material side of the holidays tend to feel less happy than families that focus on spending time together.

What better way to spend time together than volunteering?  If you have kids, it seems a parenting no-brainer to get involved in a service project this holiday season. It may be the best gift you can give your children and yourselves.   Nothing teaches hope, kindness, courage and compassion like helping others. 


 Holiday Volunteering Ideas for Kids

Make Greeting Cards: Most kids love art projects, so this can be an easy activity to get your kids on board.  You can deliver cards to a local nursing home, homeless shelter or senior center. Beyond greeting cards, you can even make Christmas decorations like snowflakes or paper chains- what a great way to brighten what may be an otherwise dreary environment for people.


Clothes and Toy Clean Out: When December rolls around, have your kids go through their toys and clothes and find some that they can donate to a local agency.   You can also make a "giving box." Have the kids decorate a large box to serve as a collection box throughout the season or the year. Every time they outgrow an item, they can toss it in the box. When the box is full, take it to a local charity.


Help the Hungry: Donate food to a food pantry this holiday season.  Don't just purge unwanted or outdated items from your own cabinets.  Take your child shopping specifically to purchase items that will be donated.  Some families even buy duplicates of the ingredients that they use for their holiday dinner and donate them to a food pantry.  No matter what your donation budget is, you can make this a meaningful experience for your child.


Holiday Party Ideas:  If you're hosting a holiday party this season, you can ask your guests to help you with a themed donation drive.  Have every guest bring a new pair of socks or gloves and deliver the items to a homeless shelter.  You could invite your guests to bring a new, wrapped toy and take the collection to a local toy drive.  You might even consider donating leftover party food to a local day shelter (especially the food that is often left after a large office party).    No matter what your approach, involve your child in the planning and then allow them to help gather the items and make the delivery.


Random Acts of Kindness: A service project doesn't have to be a formal event organized through an established nonprofit. It's just about helping.  Ask your child for ideas- they may  surprise you with their ability to creatively think of "ways to be nice".  If you have an elderly neighbor, shovel their driveway for them. Bring cookies and thank-you cards to your volunteer firemen, police, or librarians. Leave change at a vending machine with a note that says: "Please Enjoy This Random Act of Kindness. Happy Holidays!"


Reclaim some of your sanity this holiday season and create memories with your family.  Make time to make a difference- you won't regret it!