As one wise parent of Parent Soup pointed out, you don't have to wait until Christmas to give back to your community. Better yet, you can involve your kids and teach them about volunteering while brightening someone's day at the same time. Here the parents of Parent Soup talk about how they involve their young toddlers in community service. May you and your family find your own way to contribute.
"I started taking my two children to nursing homes. My young daughter (she was two when we started going) loved going to see her great-grandparents and visiting with the other residents. She of course was curious about wheelchairs, walkers and other things, and she asked lots of innocent questions. Most residents loved talking with her and answered her questions. My son was eight and didn't deal quite as well. He was hurt and angry seeing his great-grandparents health fail because he remembered them as his playmates when he was little. I encouraged him to visit often. He eventually became more comfortable with his great-grandparents and other residents. Children bring a lot of love and smiles to elderly people who are often times extremely lonely."
"I'm a Friendly Visitor, a relatively new, but increasingly popular volunteer opportunity. People visit the same homebound person every week, enough to form a strong bond of trust. In many cases we become their best friends. I've been visiting Irene for three years. She is an octogenarian widow with no children, and she lights up when I come through her door with my kids. My kids also enjoy going (especially now that Irene has cable TV). The ongoing responsibility of visiting every week can be somewhat heady -- we can't move away, and I never know how I'll find her, but being part of her life has been so extremely rewarding. Irene makes us better people. Even when she's a little grumpy."
"We have the benefit of living right next to a nursing home. Both of my boys (ages one and five) love to visit. My older son will tell the residents about what he's doing in school or about his baby brother's new tricks. My one-year-old will walk into the cafeteria because he knows he can get lots of attention. Both boys are learning so much from our visits to the nursing home. About feeling good when you make others feel good. About giving of yourself, even if it's just a quick chat with each person. And about diversity and growing old -- wheelchairs and oxygen tubes become less scary with each visit."
"I've taken my girls to a local nursing home. The seniors loved the baby and had fun with my toddler. I think it is important to go visit the seniors and sick around the year, not just at Christmas when they get most of their visitors."