By Parker White

As parents, we all want to raise thoughtful, well-rounded children. Yet, society tells us that what is important these days are looks, wealth and status. Are these the messages we want our children to learn? As a mother of two, I found what is most important to me is my child’s character. I want to raise my children to be good people, to help those in need and realize how blessed they truly are. In a culture of more…more…more, I want my children to learn the phrase give…give…give.

So, are you with me? If so, your next question may be… how? What better way to instill values than to get your children involved with community service at a young age? You may say that your children are too young or that you don’t have time and/or money. There are many SIMPLE ways for you to get even your 2 or 3 year old involved. Some are even FREE!

The most important part of whatever you choose to do is to include your children in each step of the process and make sure they understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. Tell them of the need! Don’t shield them from the side of society that needs their caring and assistance!

I live in Guildford County, and have been thrilled to see that the Guilford County School system finds character education equally as important with the development of their Service Learning diploma.  According to the Guilford County School website, “(And)…if we can emphasize it from the moment a child begins school, character development can equip students with the tools and motivation necessary to be the change they wish to see in the world.”

As we head into the holidays, there are plenty of ways to get your children involved. This is the perfect time of year to make a habit of giving as a family. Just make sure it’s not the only time of year you give. Integrate these small ideas on an ongoing basis with your children. It will make a much larger impact on them if they see it on a consistent basis. Take a small step and make a huge difference in another one’s life.

Here are some EASY ways for you and your child to get involved TOGETHER:

If your children are like mine, they love to eat! Do they know that many children their age – likely even their classmates – are going home to little or no food over the weekends right here in the Triad? Help them to collect food for these hungry children and donate it charities like BackPack Beginnings. Lots of children >are also in need of books, hygiene products, school supplies, hat & gloves and gently used clothes for these children.  You can find out all different ways to begin on BackPack Beginning’s web site.

Do your children say they aren’t babies any more? Then let them pick out the baby items they don’t need anymore and donate them to Elizabeth’s Closet. They are in need of new or gently used baby items and equipment.

Pick an angel from the Angel Tree at the Greensboro Children’s Museum. What child wouldn’t love a play date at the Children’s Museum followed by a trip to the toy store? Just make sure you talk to them about who the toy is going to and why that child needs it.

Make food bags for the homeless. Go to the grocery store and pick out a few non-perishable food items and waters. Allow your child to put each of these items in Ziplock bags. Hand them out to any homeless person you see as you drive around town. Your children will learn from your example!

Find the closest soup kitchen or church that feeds the homeless. Ask if your child can come set the tables, hand out pastries, etc.

– Do your children love animals? Call the SPCA of the Triad and see if your family can come walk some of the dogs. The dogs will love getting some exercise and your children will enjoy time with the animals! Or, even better, foster an animal!

Great ideas, Parker! Thank you for sharing these. If you’re looking for more ways your children and family can volunteer together this holiday season, visit these past posts on TMoM:

Directory of Non-Profits in the Triad

Victory Junction: How Can You Get Involved?

Ways to Volunteer with Your Whole Family

Support Piedmont Diaper Bank with Diaper Drives

Service Projects for Families

Help Us Help Others This Thanksgiving

A Rewarding Volunteer Opportunity for Your Family: Riverwood Therapeutic Riding Center

What other ideas can you share? Please add your suggestions – and suggested charities – below!