We all want to give back a little more. Volunteer more. Donate more. Give more of ourselves. However, in a world where it seems like moms are pulled in so many directions already, it can be hard. Sometimes we keep putting it off and saying we will always do it later. When we have more time. But the point in our lives where we have more time just never seems to come.
I was that person completely. I’ll get more involved next year. I’m pregnant and too tired. We’re trying to get pregnant and I need to focus on that. There’s always a million ways to avoid it.
Then it dawned on me. What was I teaching my kids if they didn’t see me being actively involved in their schools, sports and community. They didn’t know that I was giving money or donating items. They didn’t see that. Nor would they care. Kids learn by seeing and doing.
I decided to adopt a different philosophy. Start small and give more when you are up for it. For example. I couldn’t devote the time to volunteer for the parents board of my son’s preschool. However I could definitely take shifts at the fall fair booth they use to advertise in our community. By putting my foot a little in the door I could be more comfortable in the future of what kind commitment they might need.
The other thing that I have realized over time is that giving back doesn’t need to be defined purely by donations and volunteering. Giving back is also about being a good person and giving your energy to people around you. Giving back encompasses all the extra things that you can do to help people you care about and strangers that need it.
Giving back is a broad term that encompasses a lot of different things. Below is a list of ways you can give back and include your kiddos in the process.
Here are a 10 ways you can start to teach your kids to give back and include them:
1. Donate Blood
It is so easy. I was scared to do it for years. I had a personal reason that encouraged me to donate and I enrolled a few friends to join. We had so much fun together during the process and going out for lunch afterwards that we now make it an every 3-4 month date. It takes about an hour and can only be done every 3 months. So at the most you are looking at 4 hours a year. Totally Doable!
It has also opened up a wonderful conversation with the kids. They see mom going out to donate blood and they have a million questions. My oldest has even made comments about how one day he wants to come with me when he’s old enough to do it too. It warms my heart to think that maybe they will continue this on as they get older.
2. Christmas time Adopt a Family
There are a lot of different organizations to do this through. Google “Christmas adopt a family” in your city and you can pick an organization. You are assigned a family that has applied. You will be given a list of items that each of the family members has requested as Christmas gifts or items they are in need of.
Its usually financially a lot to take on individually. A woman in our community always puts it on our community Facebook page and different families sign up for different items. Then she hosts a wrapping party where a bunch of people get together and get all the gifts ready for the family. Its a little time consuming, but once a year and an amazing opportunity.
This one is very easy to do as a family. We try to pick one item each off the list and then go out to find them together. I have the kids pick out toys that they would want for Christmas themselves to give away. I was taught that the best gift is something you would really like to keep for yourself, but are willing to give away because your care. I want the kids to carry this sentiment.
3. Buy a $10 gift card for the parent that has stepped up
There will be certain years that you just can’t carry your weight volunteering at school or with your kids sports associations. It could be due to illness, career, childcare, or any other reason. We’ve all been there.
But there is always that one parent that volunteers for everything and picks up where we can’t pitch in. Show them you notice by giving them a little card and a $10 Starbucks or Tim Horton’s gift card inside. It will warm their heart so much. Don’t worry, there will always be another year that you can be the parent diving in head first. Don’t beat yourself up.
The way I include the kids is to have them make a homemade card. That way you can explain to them why you are giving the thank you card to that parent. They get to see you not only being genuinely appreciative of somebody else’s hard work, but taking the time to voice it.
4. Buy the Grocery bundle at the counter
I don’t know if every grocery store has them, but two of the ones that I frequent have prepackaged bundles at the counter. They are filled with staples that can be donated to the foodbank. I love these and try to purchase them as often as I can to put in the donation bin. They give you $5, $10 and $15 options.
Then give it to one of the kids to carry and place in the bin. Hopefully it will become so ingrained in them, they will continue to do it when they buy their own groceries.
5. Enroll your Family in a Clean up Walk
Give the kids some gloves and hold a garbage bag while you go for a walk around your neighborhood. Make a game over who can pick up the most litter. Or offer them a reward. If they fill the whole garbage bag then you will take them for ice cream!
6. Support Local Business whenever you can
Whenever you have the option or choice to support local and small business, please do it. We can’t do it all the time. I’m as big of an amazon shopper as anyone else. But I buy meat from a local butcher. I buy a good portion of my clothes from another mom that does pop up shops. I buy most of the the kids hockey equipment from a small local store rather than the big box stores. Its another version of giving back by choosing to support community.
I’m not sure if this lesson is lost on them at this point. As they get older, it will be easier to explain the impacts that shopping local have and why they should do it.
7. Give a mom the day off when she needs it
Do you have a friend or a mom you know through school that never asks for help? Or even when you offer she has trouble taking it? Do something for her. Try to give her a full Saturday by taking her kids. INSIST on it. If she still says no then make her a care package. Put a homemade Lasagna, bag salad, bottle of wine, face mask, chocolate chip cookies and a bath bomb. She will be so touched and grateful. Sometimes people just need that reminder that we’re all in this mom thing together.
If I want to do a “just because” gift for a friend, I like to include the kids. I would never tell them the details I’ve why a loved one might need it. I can just tell them something simple, like they had a rough day so we’re going to make them smile. We will make cookies together and they can draw a nice picture and we will do the delivery together. I want the kids to know the importance of being kind to their friends and how small gestures can mean the world to people.
8. Offer a Ride
This kind of goes with the above reason. People always hesitate to ask so just always offer. I probably offer three rides a day. I probably only end up giving one every few days but I always want other moms to know they can rely on me and that I truly am happy to help.
This is purely just the kids learning through seeing. They see me trying to be helpful. Hopefully. Let’s be honest, they probably don’t even notice ha ha. But maybe they do.
9. Volunteer for Neighborhood Events
My neighborhood holds a lot of social events. A LOT! Volunteering for all of them would be a full time job. But I pitch in where I can. Probably not as much as I should. But doing what you can is always helpful, even if its setting up tables and chairs. If your community doesn’t have these types of events, send an email to your home owners association or residents board and see if there are any events they host that would need volunteering.
10. Do a Smile Day
I’m not kidding. I’m really not. Have you tried it? Just wander around and smile and say hello to people. Hold doors. Let people go ahead of you in line. Sometimes you don’t have the energy to be captain happy all day. But if you have it in you to throw out ridiculous amounts of positive energy one day. Just try it. It feels great for you and the people you can affect.
How many of you have had your kids ask “Why did you say hello to that person”? When you smile at a stranger and say hello. “Mom, do you know them”. I like being able to tell them that’s its just polite to greet people and it can make your day to have a positive interaction with someone. You never know who’s day you might turn around with a smile.
The Takeaway about teaching your kids about giving back
We all know how valuable our time is. You never seem to have enough. You don’t have to be the super hero that does everything.
Start small and give time and energy when you have it. Pick an area that you enjoy and go with it. Have fun, include your kids, show them how it adds value to your lives to give your time to different causes.