As we approach a second holiday season during the pandemic, it seems like now more than ever it’s imperative to express gratitude and spread kindness however you can. This starts with raising kind kids and instilling values in them at a young age. For many parents of young children, it’s hard to know where to start and how to best go about doing community service with your family. Many nonprofits have age requirements or certain restrictions when it comes to children volunteering so we’re sharing tips to spread that philanthropic cheer for the whole family.
In the early years of parenthood, when there are always (always!) diapers to be changed, babies to be nursed, and bedtimes not to be missed, committing to hours spent away from home can feel impossible. For working parents in particular, whose time with their little ones is often limited to afternoons, evenings, and weekends, it can feel selfish to choose to spend time away from family, no matter how good the cause.
However, giving back to your local community can help build relationships with neighbors, kids’ self-esteem for doing something nice, and truly make a positive impact where help is needed. As the new year starts, take stock of your abilities, investigate opportunities to serve, and make a plan to give back to your community this year. If you feel weighed down by your parental responsibilities, check out the ideas below to help set you on the path towards giving back.
Perhaps when you think about community service you imagine sorting cans at the food bank, collecting winter coats for kids in need, or spending time with residents at the local nursing home. There are so many ways to give back and no act is too small.
Instead of being boxed-in by ideas of what you’ve done in the past, consider broadening your view of community service to include more non-traditional ways to give back. Pumping and donating extra breast milk to babies in need, knitting hats to pass out to residents of the homeless shelter, or baking goodies to contribute to the church bake sale are all worthwhile pursuits that can be completed without having to find a babysitter. It’s also still a great time to reconnect with essential workers like the delivery person, public bus driver, or a neighbor who works at your local hospital unit.
While you likely have community service interests beyond the places and institutions your family touches in their daily lives, chances are there's a need for service right where you are. Check in with your children's schools or preschools, the local library, and the parks you frequent to see what their needs might be and if you can help meet them.
It may not be feasible to spend a day away from family coordinating, setting up, and breaking down a fundraising event, but there are likely some “take home” jobs you can complete from the comfort of your couch after you tuck your babies into bed.
Perhaps you’re a skilled digital designer, possess social media savvy, or are well connected with the local press. Whatever your talents might be, consider identifying a way to leverage them from home to benefit a cause you believe in.
Sometimes, with just a bit of creativity and collaboration, you can make participating in community service more feasible for yourself and other young families. Perhaps you can coordinate with other families to host a neighborhood clean-up at a local park or area that has too much litter.
Over the past few years there’s been an increasing understanding that self-care – the art of intentionally caring for your own mind, body, and soul – is important, particularly for those in care-taking roles. The connection that's less often drawn, however, is that community service is a form of self-care. When we contribute to society in a meaningful way, we feel more confident, connected, and competent. Give priority to giving back just as you would to traditional self-care practices.
There are no shortage of ways to give back. Search out local like-minded organizations and groups to support initiatives you and your family are passionate about. For example, Atlanta’s Packaged Good Program aims to educate volunteers of all ages and abilities to give back and to help create the next generation of philanthropists. They create programs at elementary schools where the kids can pack goodie bags to be delivered to senior living facilities, sent to military bases, and other projects that help kids directly impact their communities. You might also make some new friends and have new adventures with your family.
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