Inside: Spread kindness as a family through this Family Volunteer Challenge for July by writing to active duty servicemen and women in our military.
My kids think the 4th of July is such a fun holiday all about apple pies and fireworks.
And they think Memorial Day means BBQs and Veterans Day means no school.
Of course, that’s not the real story about what these days are for.
So we talk to our kids about our active military, our veterans, and our servicemen and women who died protecting our country.
But since we are not a military family, and none of their friends are from military families, they don’t really understand what it means to have a parent or older sibling in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard.
They don’t know what it must be like to be apart from family for months at a time or to miss birthdays or holidays.
They don’t know what “the ultimate sacrifice is.”
So again, we keep talking about it.
But we also take the time to thank our active servicemen and women… and there’s no better time to write the letters than in July celebrating our country’s birthday.
So our focus for July’s Family Volunteer Challenge is connecting with and appreciating our active servicemen and women in our military branches.
Why it’s Important to Volunteer with our Kids:
We are raising kind kids. We expect it, we praise it and we model it.
Related: How to Raise Kinder Kids
And we tend to focus on the quiet, normal, everyday moments of kindness.
Holding the door for the person behind you.
Picking up something someone dropped.
Offering your seat to someone who needs it.
But there’s also bigger, grander, more time-consuming acts of kindness that falls more into the volunteering category of kindness:
Times when we donate to our local food bank.
Or collect all our old jackets and take them to a shelter that needs them.
Or when we take a taco to someone who’s really hungry.
Our kindness may not change the world. But it can change the world for the people we help.
And it instills in my children the fact that volunteering and acts of service are a normal part of lives.
Helping others doesn’t need to be a once a year activity during December when we donate a toy or two.
People are hungry year round.
Animal shelters are full year round.
Kids are sick year round.
And we can help. Because we are helpers. We are raising our kids to be helpers.
As an added bonus (as if we needed one more reason) volunteering as a family is an incredible way to connect as a family and build a strong family identity.
So teaching our kids to give to others who are less fortunate than ourselves is a true gift.
And volunteering is one of the easiest ways to help kids practice being compassionate. Compassion is feeling others’ pain or hardship or suffering and then being prompted to take action to relieve that suffering.
Many families want to donate and volunteer but it feels too hard.
And they don’t know where to volunteer or how easy it really is to make a significant difference.
So we’re here to make it easier for you with the Family Volunteer Challenge for July.
How the Family Volunteer Challenge Works:
Every month, we’ll post a family-friendly service activity you and your kids can do together.
It’s 12 months, 1 activity each month, 10-30 minutes each month.
And it’ll be super easy.
We’ll give you a suggestion.
You can run with it, tweak it, make it your own, or scrap it and do something totally different.
Your only tasks are to commit to doing this as a family, talk about what you’re doing and why with your kids so it has a lasting impact, and then protect the time on your calendar so it doesn’t get pushed back.
And it also has to come with this crucial caveat…you can only do this Family Volunteer Challenge if you do it with no guilt.
- No guilt that you didn’t start it sooner. You’re starting now and that’s incredible.
- No guilt if one month, life got in the way and you skipped it. You can do it next month, no worries.
- No guilt if you think your kids are selfish and self-centered and are ungrateful. They probably are but that’s not their fault or yours. It’s how their brain is wired and we can turn giving to others and being generous into a learned habit.
Okay, now that we’re guilt-free, let’s start spreading some kindness.
12 Months of Volunteering as a Family:
Before we jump into July’s volunteering activity, you can check out past month’s volunteer activities in case you missed it and want to do more.
July’s Volunteer Challenge:
For July, we’re connecting with and thanking our active military members.
There are over a million active-duty servicemen and women who signed up to protect our country. And while we are at a relatively peaceful time, and not at war with any specific country, it becomes easy to “forget” that these men and women are still keeping us safe and keeping others safe.
And for families who live near bases, or even on base, it is easy to thank active-duty members for their service because you pass by them daily.
But families who don’t live near a base and don’t have any friends or family members serving it is much harder to acknowledge and thank our servicemen and women.
So we have to intentionally go out of our way to make it happen.
But with Operation Gratitude who sends letters of appreciation, gift bags, and goodies to deployed soldiers and to veterans, it’s easier than ever to have our kids send them our best wishes and thanks.
Do the Family Volunteer Challenge for July now:
You can of course send any letter or gift to Operation Gratitude for them to forward on.
But to keep it easy and simple, you can also download this freebie printable of patriotic postcards (download it below).
Print it out, cut them apart, and have your kids write or dictate their note of appreciation to either a soldier or a veteran.
Follow Operation Gratitude’s Guidelines:
- Start with a generic opening such as “Dear Soldier” or “Dear Veteran”
- Do not include a date
- First names only
- Avoid political and religious messages
Then they add a stamp and address it to:
Attn: Letter Writing Program
2100 Lassen St.
Chatsworth, Ca 91311
They can then put it in the mailbox and send it off.
Talk about it:
If your family is like mine and doesn’t have direct contact with soldiers or veterans, we need to explain it to them.
We have to talk about the 5 branches of government: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.
They need to know that brave men and women from all over our country protect our country and are often away from their families for months and months at a time.
If you need help explaining it to younger kids, here’s how we do it: In our country, there are men and women who decided they wanted to help protect our country and keep us all safe. Sometimes they carry a gun, sometimes they fly plains, or maybe they work on a really large ship. Some of these people work near their families and go home every night. But some of them have to live in countries far away from their families in order to do their job. We can write them a letter and thank them for being so good at their jobs. Or we can write a letter to a veteran who is someone who used to be a soldier but is now retired from that job and does something else. But we’ll always be grateful they once were a soldier.
You can also read books to help kids really understand:
Have a conversation with your kiddos after they write a letter about how easy it was to write a quick postcard and share their appreciation. We can remind them a simple letter took just a few minutes but will be much appreciated by the soldier or veteran who receives it.
And you can ask them these questions:
When you do something to help others, how does it feel when someone thanks you?
How else can we show someone we appreciate them when they do something for us?
Why is it important to show someone we appreciate them?
Celebrate and Spread the Word:
Be proud of your volunteering and let your kids know you’re proud of them. Celebrate the time your family spent together to write the appreciation letters.
And share the Family Volunteer Challenge for July with other families. Kindness is contagious. Challenge other families to join you by asking them to also send a postcard to soldiers or veterans.