By Larraine Roulston:
Encourage volunteering to become an integral part of your young child’s life experience. Whether you choose to give a helping hand on a regular basis or wish to partake in a seasonal activity, volunteering is a good opportunity to make friends and at the same time be mindful of what your family can do within your community. The following are some helpful ways to get your children involved:
- Be a giving role model. If you offer your time to help people, your children will most likely follow your lead. Volunteers of America’s Tanisha Smith states, “Two-thirds of youths who volunteer become active adults who volunteer.” Tree planting and litter cleanups are examples that can involve the
whole family as well as build community spirit.
- Find something fun. As most children love animals, locating an animal shelter or wildlife rescue may be suitable for you. These organizations also need donations of food, bedding and towels. Many shelters welcome people to walk dogs, as well as to take home a pet for a couple of days to perk up the animal’s spirit, making it more likely to be adopted.
- Find something easy. Bundle up clothing that you no longer wear and toys that your child has outgrown, then donate to a thrift store. Working at a thrift shop is also a way to volunteer your time.
- Make it part of the family schedule. Whether your volunteer time is a weekly commitment or on an as-needed basis, such as helping a neighbor, it will become a priority if it is part of your family routine.
- Welcome your child’s input. Make sure that your children have a say in the activity so they gain more from the experience. If you cannot find an organization that can use the help of small children, create your own opportunity. Set up a lemonade stand as a fundraiser or join a walkathon.
- Show how to make a difference. Dr. Amy D’Unger, chair of the Board of Directors of Compassionate Kids, Inc., recommends taking a field trip to expose your children to an important social issue such as homelessness, animal rescue or saving the environment. She says, “These experiences can set the foundation in knowledge and enthusiasm for future volunteer activities.”
- Learn from other generations. Senior centers provide great opportunities for older children to visit and spend time talking, playing cards, reading or even watching TV with seniors. Small children who accompany a parent delivering Meals on Wheels, for example, will bring joy to many who often do not get a chance to see lively action and smiling faces.
- Enlist your friends and family. Making up care packages is one example where you can ask grandparents as well as aunts and uncles to contribute their time and donations. When everyone is on board, your child can see how important giving is to the family at large.
- See the impact. Volunteering can benefit not only your child tremendously but also help create a family bond. D’Unger notes, “Working shoulder-to-shoulder with your kids can foster conversations about their lives and experiences and provide a window into their worlds. A smile or ‘thank you’ from the recipient goes a long way in making children feel good about what they have done.”
Larraine authors the Pee Wee at Castle Compost series www.castlecompost.com