A Season of Giving Back

Teaching our kids to do for others all year long

by Alexa Lardieri | Updated 27 Nov 2015 at 9:03 AM

To many, the holiday season means giving back and spending time with loved ones. Family members near and far gather to share meals, love, and stories.

Many people, however, spend this special time alone. Parents can set a good example for their children by encouraging them to reach out to those who may be lonely.

Whether it means participating in a food drive, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or visiting a nursing home to spend time with the residents, the holiday season — from now through Christmas and beyond — is the perfect time to encourage children to think of other people and get out of their “me” zone.

Michelle DiFilippo, a New Jersey mom of three, participates in food drives with her kids. She also visited with an elderly neighbor, who has since passed away.

Related: Heroic Teens Helping Others

“I asked my kids to come on a visit with me to my 'little old lady friend.' She was 90 and a whipper snapper,” DeFilippo told LifeZette. “She lived in her home but was often lonely, so she loved to talk.”

DeFilippo brought her youngest daughter to the woman’s house and they both sat and listened to her tell stories. Then, when her oldest son visited, he played the piano. The woman had been a music teacher and “was over the moon with this.”

“She often said how she had no patience for children any longer, but you would never know it from the bright-eyed way she looked when they came, or the little gifts she often gave me to give to the kids. I miss (her) a lot," said DeFilippo. 

Out of Ideas?
Courtney DeFeo’s Light ‘Em Up program offers suggestions for families to create a unique giving plan to fit any budget. DeFeo’s program includes a list of 100 gift-giving ideas and tips on how to talk to your kids about giving back.

Kids of all ages can be gift-givers. Kimmy Palmiotto, a New York mom of an 8-year-old, helped her son start giving last year.

“We started by getting him to understand that not everybody gets everything he or she wants. We had him go through his toys and pick some out to donate,” she said. "Pretty quickly he realized how nice it was to do this and was pretty proud of himself. We plan to do the same thing again this year.”

Related: An Even Better Mother

Younger kids can donate toys or do something as simple as print out coloring pages, customize them, and bring them to neighbors. Older kids, with help from their parents, can buy small gifts to give.

Families can also share their experience and get inspiration from what others have done on DeFeo’s website.

Often the greatest thing people can give, of course, is their time. Parents can easily set the example of visiting those who are alone and isolated during the holidays — and demonstrate to their children how to behave and give back at any time of year. And that doing so is seasonless. 

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