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Holiday Traditions for Child Development: Volunteering and Teaching Empathy

December 12, 2023Back to Learning Centre

Twinkling lights casting a magical glow, brightly coloured decorations adorning every corner, and family traditions that radiate warmth and wonder are beloved elements of the holiday season. While those parts of Christmas are sure to excite any child, adding experiences where they can give back to the community through volunteering can have a profound impact that nurtures empathy and fosters a valuable sense of social responsibility in children. 

Here’s how adding community service to your holiday traditions can positively affect your child(ren). 

Volunteering teaches empathy  

During the holidays, kids eagerly anticipate unwrapping gifts from under the tree; naturally, it is a self-gratifying practise. But beyond gift giving and receiving, the holidays present a chance to teach kids the power of empathy through holiday volunteering opportunities. 

Volunteering is a wonderful way to teach kids to empathize with others because it exposes them to an environment that prompts them to listen to others, learn, and think about what it might be like to walk in someone else’s shoes.   

Volunteering at charity events, attending fundraisers, and donating to food banks can open their hearts to understanding a world beyond their own. Practising acts of giving will show them that others can directly benefit from their single act of kindness. Research also shows that, helping others is scientifically proven to reduce stress and increase happiness. Instilling this practice during the holidays, and subsequent free family time, can help to improve mindset challenges year-round — It’s a gift that keeps giving!  

Fundraising teaches generosity 

Participating in or hosting a fundraiser is an uncomplicated way to spark generosity in your child. Start by asking your child to list some of the things they’re grateful for, then help them to create their own fundraiser based off this information. For example, if your child is grateful for their home, they could make bracelets or holiday ornaments to sell in their neighbourhood and donate the proceeds to a non-profit organization that builds homes for those in need. Celebrating their gratitude by making a difference for someone else is a meaningful way to commemorate the holidays. 

Another simple yet profound teaching moment to help children learn generosity and empathy is to take part in food donation programs. A trip to the grocery store is an opportunity to discuss affordability, scarcity, and the value of sharing. Handpicking items for donation let’s your child become a part of the process, igniting a sense of responsibility and pride in their actions.  

You could take this a step further and have them gather friends and family to contribute, too! The experience will have a greater impact on your child when they champion the cause. 

After your child experiences helping others through a charity event, fundraiser or donation program, have them reflect on what they did by drawing a picture or writing in a journal. This final step can help them to cultivate self-awareness and gain a better understanding of how they can relate to others’ feelings and experiences.

The bottom line 

Ultimately, having children volunteer during the holidays empowers them to develop empathy, compassion, and a sense of social responsibility. It offers invaluable experiences that help to shape their values, attitude towards helping others, and understanding of the world around them. Making your child feel good about doing good is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give – no wrapping paper needed. 

Written by Embark

Embark is Canada’s education savings and planning company. The organization aims to help families and students along their post-secondary journeys, giving them innovative tools and advice to take hold of their bright futures and succeed.