Do you practice gratitude as a family? Practicing gratitude makes us—and other people—feel good. Research shows us that gratitude has significant benefits to our physical and mental health. It can even help make kids more resilient.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of writing thank you notes. It’s an easy way for anybody to express gratitude. Other simple practices include writing in a gratitude journal every day and going around the table at family dinners to share things you are grateful for. When you are aware of the richness in your own life, there’s another thing you can do: Give back.
Perhaps you already give back by donating your time, skills or money to organizations you value, but are you getting your kids involved?
Start with Your Why When You Give Back with Your Children
Giving back, whether it is volunteering in your community or donating goods or resources, makes the most sense when you tie it to your family why.
What does your family value? If you have a family mission statement, it can help guide you.
If your family values education and being in nature, you might contribute to a local nature center or support an outdoor classroom for the local school district. If you cherish your family meals, perhaps you donate food or work in a soup kitchen to help others have good meals too.
Whether you give time or money, choose organizations that matter to you.
Make Giving Back Meaningful To Kids
When you choose to give back according to your family’s values, you’re already making connections. You can also try these ways of making giving back meaningful to kids:
- Have them give something of theirs. To help children see how much they have and learn to give to others, help them choose gently used toys or games to donate. Bring them with you to make the donation. Talk about choosing things that are in good shape for others to use.
- Use a family sharing jar. Have everybody contribute to the jar. Kids could earn extra money to donate by doing chores beyond their expected contribution to the family. They could choose to, or you may have a family policy of, putting some percentage of any money they are gifted into a sharing/donation jar. As a family decide how to spend that money on others.
Give Back by Giving Time with Kids
Depending on the age and abilities of your children, finding volunteer opportunities may be challenging. Some organizations have age requirements for safety and other reasons, but there are still ways to get involved:
- Host a fundraiser.
- Collect needed items for a shelter or clothing drive.
- Make and donate toys for an animal shelter.
- Make a meal for and visit with a shut-in neighbor.
- Clean up a local park (Worried about what you kids might touch? Have them be spotters while you do the actual clean up.)
- Clear snow, rake leaves, or do other household chores for somebody who can’t (older neighbors, somebody who is sick or had surgery, etc.)
- Have kids seal and stamp envelopes for appeal letters or thank you notes. Older kids can handwrite a simple thank you message with guidance.
- Set up for an event, like a church coffee hour or community dinner, together.
- Take them shopping for back to school or the holidays and have them help pick out items for kids in need.
- Create activity boxes for a children’s hospital.
Talk about Bigger Whys
As kids get older, talk more about why you are donating time or money. Read and discuss impact stories together. Brainstorm things that people need (this is an another chance to talk about the differences between wants and needs, too) in your community, country, and the world. Younger children often find it easier to connect with examples in their community, but as kids grow, they can start to see issues that affect others more broadly. Discuss how needs that you see in the world relate to your family and personal values. Think about how you can act to help.
You may choose to act to help a specific person/people—for example, adopt a family for the holidays to provide a meal and gifts, or you may choose to work more at the root of the issue. That might mean raising awareness, raising money, or donating time for a specific project.
There are so many ways to give back. When you give back as a family, you show your children that you value giving back, that you put your time, money, and effort into causes that matter to you, and that they can make a difference.
You can even take it a step further by crafting your own family motto around this. Don’t have a family motto? Create yours now using my step-by-step guide.
How do you and your family give back together?
These are important reminders. At any age our kids learn by example. Last Fall my daughter, a brand new driver, offered to drive me out to Orinda to drop off donated clothing for the NAPA fire victims. A local moving company, Macy Mover’s was filling a moving truck with donations. Almost all the volunteers where young kids and teenagers. We didn’t talk about it much but the visual of all those people doing something stayed with us both.