Besides helping others, community involvement can also boost wellness.
Q: My son will usually spend all day outside, unless there is snow or it’s too cold. What can I do to keep him physically and mentally active when his school has snow days or is on holiday break?
A: When your children are out of school this winter and are tired of playing outside, teach them how to get active by helping others. There’s much more to the act of giving and contributing than simply gifting an object to someone. There are even health benefits associated with it. Evidence suggests that when we help others regularly, our brain gives off positive-feeling chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins. These chemicals make it possible to boost our physical health and happiness, and improve our ability to manage stress.
Giving back is a great way to encourage empathy and show compassion for others. If you are looking for a way to promote positive behavior and positive self-esteem in your children, get them engaged in helping others.
Talk to your kids to see if there is a place they would like to volunteer or a charity that they would like to help. There are a ton of community opportunities—you just need to be creative. Maybe there is a reading program at your local library, or leaf raking in your neighborhood. Getting involved in projects hosted by places your children attend regularly, such as school or church, is an easy way to get started.
Always consult your child’s pediatrician concerning your child’s health.
For more pediatric mental health resources, visit onoursleeves.org.
Gina McDowell, LPCC-S, is a behavioral health clinical educator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.