How to teach your kids empathy during the holiday season – and year round

During the holiday season, we do lots of giving and receiving – and many of us volunteer our time or donate items or money to help out the less fortunate. And doing good actually helps us feel good! But how do we show our children the importance of thinking about others and helping out the local community?

First things first – kids who know they can count on a parent or caregiver for emotional support at home are more likely to offer help to others. Children have a greater capacity for empathy when their own emotional needs are met at home.

Parents can also model empathy to set a good example – through interactions with others, or by showing their kids that giving and sharing with others is a great thing to do!

Here are some ideas to encourage volunteerism in your kids. And get out there and volunteer with them – you’ll both benefit from giving your time and talents:

  • Donate items to your local Food Bank.
  • Participate in a charity walk – many organizations use walks to increase awareness and raise funds. It’s also a great way to get active as a family! Kids five and older can walk a 5K or you can bring little ones along in a stroller or wagon.
  • Help out at local shelters, give a few hours of your time collecting at a Salvation Army Christmas Kettle or volunteering with Christmas Cheer.
  • Visit a nursing or retirement home to see what volunteer opportunities exist. The holidays can be a lonely time for the elderly who may not have any visitors.
  • Give blood and save a life. Those 17 and older can donate (check out other requirements to donate).
  • Clean up your neighborhood. Even very young kids can help with this! Pick up litter at a local park or while you take a walk in the neighborhood (wear gloves and supervise your children closely).
  • Volunteer to help care for animals at your local OSPCA (note that volunteers must be 14 or older). Many of us have seen examples of younger children collecting donations of pet food and care items instead of receiving birthday gifts at their parties – what a great idea!

Remember that some organizations may require a police record background check and/or a vulnerable sector screening, both of which you can request through your local police office.

Get out and enjoy your time helping out in your community – it’s great family bonding time!

The Huffington Post

Empathy & Volunteering

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