Volunteering is one of the best ways to give your child new perspectives and teach them to be generous, caring individuals. In addition, volunteering is an activity that gives your child a sense of community and social responsibility. You can even make volunteering a family event that strengthens interpersonal bonds. Volunteering can also a great way to explore potential careers that teenagers are interested in pursuing.
Volunteering helps to create well-rounded individuals and encourages them to be grateful for the fortunate circumstances of their own lives. Volunteering should be rewarding, so take care to choose an activity that suits your child’s interests and age in order to maintain his or her interest. The activity should also be something that you can appreciate as well since you may need to supervise your child. Remember that volunteering does not have to be emotionally draining either; every small act of kindness is usually met with such positive feedback that your child’s confidence and self-image will be bolstered by the experience.
Volunteering teaches your children responsibility and commitment and makes them feel needed. Holidays are an especially good time to spread the spirit of the season through helping others. There are many activities to choose from. Remember that it often takes time to gain a volunteer position. The volunteer application process can often include applications, background checks, and extensive training before the volunteering can begin. I know this to be true especially at larger institutions like science, art, and history museums. Below are some general areas you can look at helping. You can usually find information about your volunteer interest by doing internet searches, checking with your local religious or community center, or a volunteer organization such as United Way.
Many children live in circumstances that render it unlikely that they will receive gifts for the holidays. Get your children to donate toys to a worthy cause. Some of the bests options are Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army, while toy retailer Toys R Us usually does a drive. Most toy drives begin planning for next Christmas in January or February and get into high gear in October. You can get your child to donate some of the toys they got for Christmas to the toy drive while still in the packaging. Your children can also ask family members to donate money that they would have spent on Christmas and birthday gifts to a charity of their choice. Your child can help to sort and label or wrap toys for distribution or they can work with teachers and classmates to organize a school toy drive. A great resource on the web is the Volunteer Guide.
Most shelters appreciate volunteers who can cook, clean, organize, and serve the individuals that come in for meals. Those that offer accommodations also have additional needs. To find local services there is the Homeless Shelter Directory.
Clean, Green Environment
If your children enjoy the outdoors, contact local agencies for parks or trails that need to be cleaned. For a more informal volunteer opportunity, your children can go on hikes and pick up trash as they go. This will not only help to beautify your area, it also helps to protect wildlife.
Food banks need volunteers to sort food, check expiry dates, and assemble food packages. Kids can also collect coupons from newspapers and magazines to help food banks stretch their budgets. Work with schools or other community institutions to collect food for foods banks, especially over the festive season.
Your local SPCA is usually in need of help with their feline and canine guests. Annual fund drives are another great way to help the animals in need.
A study by the Search Institute found that children who volunteer for one hour a week are 50% less likely to use drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. Remember, volunteering is a great activity to do together as a family. Encourage your children to volunteer and spread some joy this festive season.
For some other points on volunteering there are some great on-line resources like Charity Navigator, Class B, SheKnows, and Kaboose. Don’t forget that volunteer opportunities are also prevalent in Girl and Boy Scout organizations your child maybe interested in joining.