Child Behavior: Community service during the holidays

Dr. Schwartz answers your questions

As the holiday season comes around, it’s easy to teach your children the value of giving back to their community. It will be a lesson that will stay with them their entire lives. Some form of community service does so much to strengthen your community and your family. It teaches children not only the benefits of giving but also that one person can make a difference.

Have your children go through their toys and games and give some of the unused or better-used ones to a local community group that supplies food, toys or funds for needy families during the holidays. Have your children give some of their savings to one of these groups or forego one of their own gifts and give that designated money to a charity, like the Salvation Army. The child will feel involved, in a very concrete way, in the spirit of giving.

Children can also sponsor other children in need through Children International (children.org) or other organizations. There are also numerous charitable organizations like artistshelpingchildren.org that will help you organize a charity function for needy children.

The smallest gesture a child makes will help him or her internalize the benefits of altruism. Don’t minimize any opportunity! Don’t just put a fleeting smile on their faces with gifts that will probably get buried in a toy basket. Give them a holiday experience that will stay with them and help them to develop character throughout their lives.


Paul Schwartz, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh.