This article, "Tips to Get Children Started with Volunteering," comes from MomsEveryday contributor Erin Ferris.
“How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.” ~ Anne Frank
For many years I worked for the American Red Cross, one of our country’s leading volunteer-led and volunteer-driven non-profit organizations. My position involved recruiting, orienting, placing, training, retaining, and recognizing our chapter’s hundreds of volunteers, tasks that while difficult at times, proved more rewarding than I could have possibly imagined.
One of my favorite aspects of the job was watching as each of our volunteers realized how significantly their service changed lives for the better. In these moments I could sense in them a positive shift, both in attitude toward volunteering and in perceived worth as a member of the organization.
Studies have repeatedly shown that people who volunteer are more personally fulfilled and feel better about themselves. And children who volunteer reap these same benefits, becoming happier, more appreciative, and more compassionate as a result of their service to individuals and their communities. Children who volunteer see firsthand the tremendous impact they can have on the lives of those in need, and then they share that message of kindness and generosity with their peers. Children who volunteer, especially when they work together, can slowly but surely change the world.
So let’s help them do so, shall we?
Here are a few tips to consider as you and your children wade into the volunteer pool:
Find their cause.
Don’t force your children to volunteer for your organization or cause; instead, help them figure out which organization or cause touches their heart. While I have a passion for Red Cross disaster response and blood donation, my kids couldn’t care less about putting together emergency preparedness kits or tagging along while I donate double reds. They care deeply, however, about making sure our community’s kids have food on their tables and abandoned kittens are adopted by loving families.
Find something easy and fun.
Volunteering, especially when children are involved, should be enjoyable. While the bathrooms at your child’s chosen organization may need to be cleaned, starting young volunteers off with this kind of difficult and unpleasant task could quickly turn them off to volunteering in general. Try to find something fun: perhaps your artist could make “get well soon” cards for hospital patients, your planner could organize canned goods at the food pantry, or your social butterfly could hand out a nonprofit organization’s pamphlets at a community event or holiday parade.
Start off slow.
Just like it’s important to choose something easy and fun so as not to “scare” children off, starting slow is equally important. Instead of signing up for a weekly shift, sign up for a monthly shift or even a one-time volunteer job to help children comfortably ease into their new role.
Set a good example.
As parents we know that children watch – and often mimic – nearly everything we do, and that includes our attitude toward and commitment to volunteering. Volunteer with your children, and if possible, make volunteering a regular part of the family routine. If volunteering with your children isn’t possible (for example, my son does some of his volunteer work at school as part of his commitment to Student Council), try to find time – even just an hour once a month – to volunteer on your own and then talk to your children about the organization or responsibility you’ve chosen for yourself.
Are you and your children ready to get the ball rolling? If so, let’s get out there and make the world a better place!