Teaching volunteerism at a very young age not only provides your kids with the career and life skills that’ll help them in adulthood, it can also teach them about compassion. Professor James E. Youniss, a research professor of psychology at the Catholic University of America, once studied high school students starting on mandatory community service. He remembers one football star who waited until his senior year to volunteer. “He filled the 40-hour requirement by taking a blind man to a gym and walking him through his physical activity every Saturday,” Professor Youniss shared. It changed the boy’s view about his role in the community.

Helping others can increase self-esteem because it gives people a sense of purpose. It also develops empathy upon seeing how their lives may be different from those in need. It instils lifelong generosity, which enables them to help other people even when they’re older. Academically, it can also earn them better grades and help compile a stronger college application, possibly even earning scholarships. In addition, volunteering is a good way for the family to bond more meaningfully, as well.

Be a Good Role Model

In order to encourage volunteerism, it’s important to practice it first. Setting a good example to your kids is one of the best ways to make them do something you believe will be good for them. And part of doing this is helping them understand the benefits mentioned earlier by applying them in real life.

Angie Walston, a certified family life educator and an instructor on Maryville University’s online human development and family studies program, highlights the importance of proactive parenting strategies and practicing compassion towards your children and how they see the world around them. Her personal philosophy on parenting, which she fondly calls C-3 Parenting, outlines three key things you need to be: compassionate, consistent, and calibrating. Show compassion to your children by performing good deeds, do them consistently, and calibrate them based on your kids’ reactions and feedback.

Volunteering as a family is a good way to become a role model, at the same time letting your kids experience it themselves. You’ll be there to teach them how each situation can benefit them and the people that you’re helping. Why not start at a local food bank, or walk dogs at a nearby animal shelter? Participate in zoo clean-ups, or help build houses with Habitat for Humanity. Trying out different programs not only gives your family opportunities to bond, it also helps your children decide which ones they want to pursue on their own, depending on their interests.

Consider Their Interests

If your kids are into sports, music, or whatever hobbies they have, find out if there are volunteer programs or charity organizations that involve those activities. It’ll make them more interested if it means doing something they already love. Marie Schwartz, CEO and founder of TeenLife Media, recommends volunteering as a coach or referee for a youth team at your town’s recreational department, Boys and Girls Club, or YMCA. Your child can also try offering free music lessons to the community, or perform at senior homes or local shelters. If you have kids who love to bake, help them put up a fundraising bake sale and let them donate the proceeds to their chosen charity organization.

Research Volunteering Options

The easiest way to introduce your kids to volunteering is by helping them research nearby options, which makes their own schools a good place to start. Catherine Fusaro Stanley, a business teacher and former adviser at Pleasantville High School in New Jersey, talks about her students organizing a school-wide drive collecting personal care items to give to the Covenant House in Atlantic City. “I think it helps them to develop a sense of giving back to their community,” says Stanley.

If you live in New Orleans or nearby states, your kids might want to try volunteering safely here at Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, where minimum health protocols are being observed. We specialize in providing hands-on learning experiences to young people interested in construction, leadership development, financial literacy, homeownership, and more. Whether your kids are looking for a fun and meaningful community service experience, or an educational service learning opportunity, we’re happy to customize the program.

 Article written by Camilla Lawrence

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