The health pandemic has been chaotic. It has wreaked havoc on our daily routines and our sense of being. One way you can return a bit of control to your family (especially with your children) is by volunteering. You will feel empowered after you volunteer. Contributing to something greater than yourself will make you feel good.

The act of altruism is well established in the scientific community. Babies show signs of a desire to help others. In studies in a lab, kids only a year old have picked up objects they thought a researcher needed. You might hesitate to explain things like hunger and homelessness to a child, but it will help them make sense of the world around them.

You should be ready to answer their questions, though. For example, let’s say you get your kids to volunteer to help lonely seniors. They might ask you where their family is or why contact is limited. 

If your family is somewhat artistic, you can start with images in the driveway and posting signs with uplifting messages. For example, you all could make signs thanking essential workers for their contribution. This can be fun as it allows a lot of creativity and is very self-directed.

One trend that is starting to become popular is sidewalk libraries. You can just take a shoebox and put your unwanted books in it. Unused toys and clothes can be donated. 

There is a charity called Project Linus, which sends homemade blankets for those who have experienced trauma. It is 25 years old and has sent 8 million blankets. It has everything from complex patterns for quilts to “no-sew fleece blankets” which only require fabric and scissors. 

Another idea is to be a penpal. Some kids just prefer to write out their ideas. The charity “Love for the Elderly” organizes it for isolated seniors and “A Million Thanks” for the military. And although you don’t need to be penpals, surely your kids can write a thank you letter to their teachers, nurses, and postal workers.

If you like animals, consider bringing a foster pet home. It will free up space at shelters, which are burdened with social distance requirements now. Taking care of a dog or cat develops skills that last a lifetime. Even if you can’t bring a pet home, consider donating supplies. 

The health pandemic has shut down most traditional volunteering. That doesn’t mean you and your family can’t continue to volunteer for society.