Pediatric HealthSource: Health Benefits of Giving

Gina McDowell, LPCC-S

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

Gina McDowell, LPCC-S, is a behavioral health clinical educator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

There are so many ways to get your kids involved in giving back this holiday season and beyond. Brainstorm with your child ways you and your family can contribute. Here are a few ideas to get engaged with giving:

  • Donating toys. Donated toys are a great way to brighten a child’s day. Talk to your kids about cleaning out their toy boxes or purchasing a new toy to give during a toy drive.  
  • Give your time. Volunteering is one of the best ways to give back, especially during the holidays.
  • Send a card of kindness. Let your child include a special note of their own in your family’s holiday card, or help them choose an organization where messages can be sent to someone who might need a smile.

Get Kids Engaged