Tis’ the Season of Giving: Give the Gift of Yourself and Volunteer During the Holidays

The holidays are rapidly approaching and parents everywhere will soon be busy decorating, preparing for family gatherings, and attending school activities. The holiday season, while exciting and fun, is also a season for giving back to others, making it a wonderful time to teach children the value of volunteering.

There are many benefits when you volunteer: not only is it a great way to give back to your community, but it is also wonderful way to connect with others, make new friends, and increase your social and interpersonal skills. Helping others who are less fortunate is also great for your mind and body, and it’s has been said that people who volunteer increase their self-confidence and overall perception of the world around them in a positive way. Volunteering also can provide a sense of fun and fulfillment because of its ability to help create a positive escape from normal day-to-day activities and provide a sense of renewed creativity, motivation, and vision into personal or professional life.

But even with all the positive aspects of volunteering and all the great benefits it provides, getting started can be a little tough at first. Here are five tips to help get the volunteer ball rolling in your family this holiday season and keep it going all year round: 

  • Seek Out Opportunities:  Churches/religious organizations, libraries, schools, and even referrals from friends and neighbors are all great places to look for volunteer opportunities. Helpful websites, such as VolunteerMatch.org andIdealist.org, allow you to search for specific types of volunteer opportunities, while others take your zip code and activity type to match you with a list of options.
  • Do What You Do Best: Search for opportunities that accentuate individual strengths, talents, and skill sets. Think about what you and your family are naturally good at, and focus your attention on helping others in that area. You’d be surprised at how different skills can be utilized throughout all types of organizations.
  • Make It A Family Event: Use volunteering activities as an opportunity to spend quality time with family members who you don't see on a regular basis. Not only will an activity provide extra quality time with your family and friends, but it also encourages others to give back as well.  Invite your entire family circle –and those friends who are just as dear as family – to share in an event that is positive and creates joyful memories for everyone involved.
  • Teach A Lesson: By giving back to the community as a family, you have an opportunity to introduce new perspectives and experiences. Ask questions throughout the activity and talk to your family about what is going on and how they feel about the situation. Not only will the discussion help them reflect and grow, but it will also encourage selflessness and even life-long service to others.
  • Encourage Year Round Service: Many organizations need help more than just a few times a year, and even the smallest gesture can make a big difference. Encourage volunteering as a regular activity throughout the year, and plan events that involve various types of service and support initiatives. By regularly giving back as a family, children are more likely to model that behavior and develop a habit of helping and volunteering on their own now and in the future.

For more volunteer ideas, check out VolunteerMatch.org and IdeaList.org.

Whitney Patterson, NCC, M.ED. of Pittsburgh, Pa., has been a professional high school counselor since September 2009. She has been instrumental in developing and implementing innovative virtual communication tools to effectively communicate and build rapport with students across the state of PA. She holds a Master of Education in Counselor Education and a Bachelor of Science in Communications Media from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She has appeared on KDKA Pittsburgh Today Live for her segment on “Expert Tips on Getting the Most out of a College Visit” and she has also received national recognition from the American School Counseling Association in July of 2015 for the commitment, contribution, and dedication to the profession of school counseling. The title of her breakout session was called ‘The School Counselor in the Cyber World, and the main goal of the session was to educate the professionals on how a school counselor educates and connects with students within the cyber world.