Giving Back When the Doldrums Set In

The party is over. The presents are unwrapped. The tree is drooping from thirst, or may be down already (with a few stray pine needles still hanging around, of course).

The kids head back to school, and you’re back at work or looking forlornly around your empty, post-holiday house. It’s happening. The holiday doldrums are hitting.

When you’re a kid, these doldrums can wallop you especially hard. But there are ways to overcome this. The best way is to think of others — and do something for someone else.

Here are some excellent ideas to get you started.

Easing Loneliness
As a child, my mom and I would visit the nursing home where she worked to talk with patients who didn’t have any family nearby. It was such a nice way to spend time around the holidays after the novelty of the toys under the tree wore off. It was a great learning experience, too.

I carried that tradition into adulthood. My husband and I had the most amazing, gentle dog in the world. She was approved as a “pet volunteer,” which is akin to a therapy dog without the time-consuming certification process. We took her and our first-born to visit a local nursing home every Christmas Day until our sweet pup passed away. Seeing the joy on the patients’ faces when they saw our dog and our baby boy was better than any present we could have been given.

Donating to Worthy Charities
If your children are old enough, talk to them about picking out a couple of their gifts to donate to an organization that accepts toys. It’s a great way to teach them about helping families who are less fortunate during this season of excess. You can also have them cull down their old toys and give away what they’ve outgrown.

The lull after the holidays is a great time to think, too, about giving to a charity you care about as well. Sit down with your children and talk about what you’re doing. Have them share their ideas and start a new tradition. Choose a charity together.

Helping Those in Need
Lending a hand at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen during the holidays might be more difficult than you would think. Generosity typically overflows this time of year, so slots book up. People often find their way back to family during the holidays, so there aren’t as many in need.

But consider what happens when the holidays end. People still need to eat and the volunteer rate dies down. It's a great time to jump in and help.

  • Blankets, coats and winter gear are a huge help to many organizations. Have your children gather up what they no longer use or need and wash these items. (No one wants dirty donations.) Then find out who needs what you have. Homeless shelters, churches, and domestic abuse shelters are typically thrilled. You may have to find a drop-off point, since some shelters do not disclose their address. Most animal shelters will also happily accept used blankets.
  • Look around your neighborhood. If you notice someone wandering, someone clearly out of place, ask if they need help. One winter I brought coffee and food to a woman in our neighborhood who didn’t want to stay at a shelter.
  • Check with your local hospice center, church or community center to see if there are any individuals or families who might need groceries or company after the holidays. This time of year can be particularly brutal for those who are alone or who just lost a loved one. They may need help with tasks that once were simple, such as taking down a tree, cleaning their home, or shopping.

Caring for Four-Legged Friends
Local animal shelters rely on volunteers to help walk and bathe their animals. Check with your local shelter to see if your family can pitch in. It could be a great activity for older kids who complain about being bored over winter break.

Related: Real Service Dogs vs. the Fake Ones

By the way, we all know that getting a pet on a whim is not a great idea. But you can be a temporary home for an animal waiting for a forever home. Look into fostering a pet. It teaches kids how to care for an animal.

Kicking Boredom to the Curb
If anyone in your home complains of boredom, ask what they could do to make someone’s life better that day, that moment. Taking the focus off ourselves and our little bubble can make a tremendous difference in someone else’s life. And who knows, you could spark a change that leads to a lifetime of giving back -- not just around the holidays but all year long.

Last Modified: January 4, 2016, 10:29 am

This website uses cookies.