We call this the “Season of Giving.” And what better way to give than to teach your child how to impact the world around him by volunteering in the community?
There are a lot of opportunities to volunteer. Just in my small community, there is a food bank, a not-for-profit thrift store, and a crafters group which assists families in need. Not to mention The Salvation Army and local churches’ community service projects all within close proximity.
Kelly Palmetier, at Compassionate Kids, remarks that “Children who see their parents volunteering are much more likely to believe in the value of working to help others.”
She also gives advice in choosing the right volunteer opportunity for your child. What are your child’s interests? What are your child’s abilities? How long will your child be able to volunteer? Is there an organization nearby that can accommodate your child’s desire to volunteer? How often do you want to volunteer?
What about you? What are your interests? Your child will watch you as you volunteer next to them and respond in kind. Your passion (or lack thereof) for the cause will influence your child’s view of volunteer work.
There are organizations that will allow young children to accompany their volunteering parent. Food banks are a wonderful way to introduce your young child to volunteering. My children are 6 and 8 years old. They can follow directions for packing boxes at our local food bank. They offer sunny smiles to those in need. Can they last my usual three hours? No. After about an hour, they are ready for a change. But that hour makes an impact.
Older children and teens can explore many options in volunteering. Mary Mazzoni in an article entitled, “8 Great Reasons for Kids to Volunteer (Plus 2 Yes, Buts…)” on the website Life After IEPs , lists eight reasons teens should volunteer.
Number one: You are needed. (This is my favorite) Do you remember a time when you were young when you made a difference? Every child needs to experience this life altering moment. The moment when he thinks, “I matter. I can do something important.”
Her number two: You care. Whatever it is that inspires passion or compassion in your child, whether animals, seniors, hospitalized children, the hungry or homeless, there are organizations that need an hour or two of their time.
And number three: Learn more about you. Being a volunteer gives your child a chance to shine. Academics may be a struggle, but your daughter can make a difference at the animal shelter. Your son may not be an athlete, but his volunteering at the homeless shelter inspires him.
Mary’s last five reasons are to try out careers, gain employment skills, build a career network, make new friends and feel good.
Need a place to start? Serviceleader.org offers some advice as you or your teen begin looking for a place to serve. When you figure out what interests you, visit www.volunteermatch.org or http://www.idealist.org to find local opportunities by entering your city, zip code, or searching for age appropriate opportunities.
Michelle Luce is a mother, teacher and a writer. She lives in Swansea, South Carolina.