The holidays are traditionally the time of year when we seem to put more attention on others and look for opportunities to be more giving and kind to each other. Of course this is a state of being that we really want to practice every day. A lot of research has been done around why we feel good when we are kind or giving to others. Researchers call this a "Helpers High". Many people feel a positive physical sensation and feel more energetic and happier when helping or supporting others. This is especially true for children and adolescents.
So if we want to raise conscious, caring children then we need to give them opportunities to engage in activities that promote these values. Encouraging them to participate in the positive benefits of being generous, thoughtful and doing something that brings joy to another. Here are a few activities the whole family can do to share this holiday spirit together.
1. Bake cookies or casseroles. Cooking with kids is fun and easy. As a family, bring homemade cookies to your local fire department or police station, to a nursing home or to a neighbor who may not get a lot of home cooked goodies.
2. Fill stockings for the less fortunate. Buy some inexpensive stockings, and have kids pick out practical items such as gloves, socks, and travel toiletries. Include some treats such as granola bars, candies or other goodies. Give the stockings to homeless people you come across or bring to homeless shelters to distribute.
3. Bring gifts to an animal shelter. We don't want to forget our little furry friends during the holidays. Blankets, dog food, pet toys and small donations are always welcome.
4. Adopt a Family. This has always been one of my favorite holiday activities. There are many programs that allow you to provide holiday dinners and gifts for needy families in your area. This is great activity for the entire family and especially kids. Allow them to be part of the gift buying and food purchases. Add a more personal connection by making holiday cards for the adopted family.
Giving and sharing has more emotional gratification when it requires some thought and effort from the giver. Encourage older children to use some of their own allowance or babysitting money to purchase food or gifts for the less fortunate. Younger children can benefit by being part of the preparation and purchasing of gifts.
The greatest gift to others and us is to embrace this wonderful tradition of sharing and kindness throughout the entire year.