Volunteering as a Family: Finding Ways to Give Back

Volunteering as a family is a concrete way to apply and demonstrate shared values and beliefs while making a positive impact on your world (Ameri Corps, 2020). Families who volunteer have the unique experience of working together toward a shared goal, most often for the benefit of others. Quality time spent together while volunteering can promote openness and understanding between parents and children and may serve as a catalyst for meaningful conversations. Volunteering can also draw family members closer together, forge new bonds through shared experiences outside of the normal day-to-day routines (American Red Cross, 2020), and show children the importance of helping others. In addition, new friendships and interests may form through volunteer efforts that can stay with the family for a long time.

Benefits to families who volunteer can include the following:

  • Adults and children share the same goal and a common purpose.
  • Children gain opportunities to share their time and talents.
  • Children learn self-confidence and acquire new skills.
  • Family members encounter and learn about people from different cultures and economic backgrounds and, consequently, grow as human beings.
  • Family members see one another with a fresh perspective.
  • Family members communicate with each other more effectively and are  and more supportive of one another.
  • Volunteer experiences carry over into other parts of their lives such as dinner table discussions.
  • Children learn the lifelong lesson that by giving to others they can put their own problems in perspective.

During this time of a global pandemic, it may take a little creativity to find ways to volunteer and give back to the community. Below is a list of some safe ways to volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic (Wright, 2020).

  • Use your crafting skills to provide comfort to shelter pets.
  • Lift the spirits of a child with cancer by sending an e-card.
  • Help people in need by crocheting garments. Warm Up America! is a nonprofit that has been helping people in need stay warm since 1992.
  • Help a family in need buy holiday gifts for their children.
  • Record bird sightings, whether you see them at a park, in your own backyard, or somewhere else, to benefit science and conservation. You can contribute to  projects by submitting your own bird sightings here (Hatem, 2020).
  • Support our troops: Kids can write a letter or draw a picture to send to our Service members overseas or in the United States through A Million Thanks or Operation Stars and Stripes.
  • Walk dogs, collect mail, shovel snow, or rake leaves for someone in your neighborhood who needs the help.
  • Earn a President’s Volunteer Service Award for your volunteer work. People of all ages can sign up, track their hours, and search for volunteer opportunities through United We Serve.
  • Kitchen Table Project: Sometimes it’s not what you cook but how you present it. Decorate paper lunch bags and drop them off at your local Meals on Wheels (Feeding America, 2020).

References

American Red Cross. (2020). Become a volunteer. Get Help. https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html#step1

AmeriCorps. (2020). 10 ways to safely help your community during covid-19. Serve your community. https://www.nationalservice.gov/serve

Feeding America. (2020). How to volunteer during covid-19. Take Action. https://www.feedingamerica.org/take-action/volunteer

Hatem, A. (2020, March 5). How your family can volunteer during the pandemic. Giving Back. https://offspring.lifehacker.com/how-your-family-can-volunteer-during-the-pandemic-1842457312

Wright, B. (2020, April 13). You’re your family can volunteer during the covid-19 crisis. Thomas B. Fordham Institute. https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/commentary/ways-your-whole-family-can-volunteer-during-covid-19-crisis

National Children’s Health Month: 5210

October is National Children’s Health Month. Children learn about and model health behaviors from their families and their environments. The 5-2-1-0 health messaging campaign is a way to build and promote lifelong healthy habits for children at home and in the community.

Do you know the 5-2-1-0 message?

The 5-2-1-0 message recommends four healthy behaviors children should achieve each day:

5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables

5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables provide many nutrients and water without a lot of calories. Fruits and vegetables also contain fiber and a variety of phytochemicals that help prevent cancer, heart problems, and other diseases. Young children often reject new foods at first – it may take several exposures to a new food before they accept it. Keep trying!

2 or fewer hours of screen time

2 or fewer hours of screen time

Review guidelines on parenting strategies to ensure quality screen time (AAP, 2015)

Screen time is free time that is spent in front of screens like televisions, video games, smart phones, and computers. It is possible to get enough physical activity and still engage in an unhealthy amount of screen time, so encourage your family to find other fun ways to spend their free time!

1 or more hours of physical activity

1 or more hours of physical activity

Moving your body is a great way to burn calories, improve your mood, boost your energy, prevent cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and help you sleep better at night, and it can be a lot of fun! Look for activities your family can enjoy together, so everyone can reap the benefits and help keep one another on track!

0 sweetened beverages

0 sweetened beverages

It is important to drink fluids to stay healthy, but sweetened beverages add extra sugar and calories to one’s diet. Watch out for drinks with the following ingredients: sugar, honey, sweetener, syrup (e.g., corn syrup, brown rice syrup), and/or ingredients ending in “ose” (e.g., glucose, dextrose).

The 5-2-1-0 behaviors are evidence-informed and are recommended by groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Association for Sport and Physical Activity. All children, no matter their size, benefit from eating adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, monitoring and limiting their screen time, being physically active, and avoiding sweetened beverages. Visit https://5210.psu.edu to access free tools and tips on how to help you enhance your child’s health and even start a community-wide campaign!

Additional Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2015). Media and children communication [Toolkit]. Healthy Children. https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, October 1). Children’s health month October 2020: Leading the way towards safe, healthy, and protective environments where children live, play, and learn! Your health your environment blog. https://blogs.cdc.gov/yourhealthyourenvironment/2020/10/01/leading-the-way-towards-safe-healthy-and-protective-environments-where-children-live-play-and-learn/

References

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness. (n.d). 5210 helping families lead healthier lives. https://5210.psu.edu/

Influenza and Children: Your child may benefit more than ever from an Influenza (flu) shot this year!

This year’s flu season will coincide with the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 virus. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are cautioning the occurrence of a “Twin-demic.” That is when two diseases spread at the same time. Yes, you can contract Influenza and COVID-19 at the same time, which could overwhelm our healthcare systems.

In children, the flu illness is more dangerous than the common cold. There are more than 200 different viruses that cause the common cold, which is an upper respiratory virus that usually only causes symptoms in the nose and throat areas. Rarely does the common cold cause fever or serious complications for children. Influenza or the flu is a lower respiratory infection that attacks the lungs and our oxygen exchange system. The flu commonly causes fevers and reduced oxygen levels, which can lead to very serious and life-threatening illnesses for children, like pneumonia (CDC, 2020).

There can be some confusion surrounding the flu shot and how it actually works in our bodies. The flu shot is a vaccination made up of three to four different kinds of influenza virus strains. This year, the flu shot contains the H1N1, Type A, and Type B strains (CDC, 2020). The flu shot has only pieces of the viruses and does not cause the flu. It takes about 2 weeks for the immune system to create antibodies from the flu shot.  Every year, scientists decide what are the best viral strains of the flu to use in the annual flu vaccination, and these strains, on average, have a 45% rate of accuracy (CDC, 2020). Any flu antibodies your body creates will lessen the symptoms and severity of the flu, and you may be better off than if you had not been vaccinated at all (Arriola, 2017).

The flu shot offers several benefits to your child, such as the following:

  • Reduce the spread of flu to others.
  • Reduce flu illnesses and make them shorter and milder if you do get them.
  • Reduce doctor’s visits.
  • Reduce the number of missed school days.
  • Reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalization and death.
  • Provide preventive care for children with chronic health conditions.

The flu shot is very important for children and teenagers who are at high risk of complications from the flu, including those who have the following characteristics:

  • Are between 6 months and 5 years of age.
  • Have chronic heart or lung disorders.
  • Have chronic conditions that weaken the immune system.
  • Have diabetes.
  • Have chronic kidney disease.
  • Have chronic anemia or a hemoglobin disorder.
  • Have a chronic neurological disorder.
  • Are severely obese (body mass index ≥40).
  • Need to take acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or Aspirin) on a daily basis.
  • Live with another child or adult who is at risk of complications from the flu.

In addition to children, pregnant women and individuals and caregivers who care for children less than 5 years of age should also receive the flu shot (Thompson, 2016). Given during pregnancy, the flu shot helps to protect the baby from the flu for several months after birth, which is a time when he or she is not old enough to be vaccinated (Benzowitz, 2010).

Additional Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August 31). What are the benefits of flu vaccination? https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 11). A strong defense against flu: get vaccinated! https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/general/strong-defense-against-flu.pdf

References

Arriola, C., Garg, S., Anderson, E. J., Ryan, P. A., George, A., Zansky, S. M., Bennett, N., Reingold, A., Bargsten, M., Miller, L., Yousey-Hindes, K., Tatham, L., Bohm, S. R., Lynfield, R., Thomas, A., Lindegren, M. L., Schaffner, W., Fry, A. M., & Chaves, S. S. (2017). Influenza vaccination modifies disease severity among community-dwelling adults hospitalized with Influenza. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 65(8), 1289–1297. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/cix468

Benowitz, I., Esposito, B., Gracey, D., Shapiro, D., & Vázquez, M. (2010). Influenza vaccine given to pregnant women reduces hospitalization due to influenza in their infants. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 51(12),1355-1361. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21058908/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August 31). What are the benefits of flu vaccination? https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 11). A strong defense against flu: get vaccinated! https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/general/strong-defense-against-flu.pdf

Thompson, M., Kwong, J., Regan, A., Katz, M., Drews, S., Azziz-Baumgartner, B., Klein, K., Chung, H., Effler, P., Feldman, B., Simmonds, K., Wyant, B., Dawood, F., Jackson, M., Fell, D., Levy, A., Barda, N., Svenson, L., Fink, R., Ball, S., Naleway, A. (2016). Influenza vaccine effectiveness in preventing influenza-associated hospitalizations during pregnancy: A multi-country retrospective test negative design study. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 68(9),1444–1453. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciy737