Posted: Nov 13, 2013 8:00 AM
Children learn by example, and what better example to lead with than an attitude of giving this holiday season? Find out how other parents are teaching their kids to give, and learn more about some national organizations that are looking for your help.

There's something about having children that opens parents' eyes up to how many other children in the world are in need. Getting the family involved in giving is a great way to teach kids compassion and the spirit of the holidays.

Adopt a family

Most communities have various programs through which you can adopt a family in need. "Angel Trees" can often be found in malls or churches, and some communities allow families to sign up online.

It was awesome to play Santa to them and make their Christmas special.

Kelly Gumbert of Austin, Texas, and her family adopted a family in 2012 through Hill Country Christmas, a local organization that pairs families in need with those looking to give. The family provided gifts and groceries for a mom and her two girls. "It was awesome to play Santa to them and make their Christmas special," said Kelly. The Gumberts plan to adopt another family this year through the same organization. Shanna Nail's family chooses angels from their church's tree each year and shops their wish list. In 2012, her 10-year-old daughter picked a girl close in age and really enjoyed putting together gifts for her. "It was a blessing to us to be able to bless someone else."

Donate unused goods

donation boxesThe holiday season is a great time to clean out closets and toy bins of unused and forgotten items. Donation stations and shelters are always accepting new and gently used items. Mom Lauren Post rounds up new toys that were never given out for birthday parties and drops them at her local children's shelter, along with a check as an extra donation. She and her three children also send cards to soldiers through the Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes Program. Mom and blogger Natalie Hoage participates in Operation Christmas Child, where shoe boxes of gifts are shipped around the world to children in need.

Many shelters allow their inhabitants to "shop" the donations so they have a rare opportunity to get a gift for a loved one. Check online or call to see if your local center has a wish list, and try to provide some of those items as well. Just make sure donations are in new or gently used condition before giving. Giving broken or dirty items only makes more work for the employees.

Donate your time

Thanksgiving dinner plateThanksgiving and Christmas are optimal opportunities to give your time in a local homeless shelter or food pantry. While many are dining with their families, there are still thousands who will go without a hot meal. The Homeless Voice, an organization in Hollywood, Florida, that houses, feeds and finds jobs for the homeless, already has a waiting list for volunteers on Thanksgiving Day. In 2000, Austinite Richard Bagdonas finished his Thanksgiving meal and headed downtown, where he handed an extra plate of food to a homeless man. That act of kindness became Operation Turkey, an event in which over 2,000 volunteers in Austin and neighboring San Marcos distribute meals and toiletries to more than 4,700 homeless and less fortunate.

Give your heart

toy donationsFor Austin-based blogger and mother of six Kim Borchert, the holiday season is a bittersweet one. Kim's oldest daughter was born on Dec. 15, 2002. She passed away before her first birthday. Kim's family celebrates their daughter and sister by buying gifts for her each year and donating them to Toys for Tots. "My kids love picking out toys for their big sister," she says, "and I love knowing they are going to make someone else's Christmas brighter." The Borchert family has carried this tradition for the past 10 years and plans to continue.

Share with us!^ With all of the ways to give during the season, families are bound to find a method that works for them. How do you teach your children about compassion and giving during the holidays?

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