It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child. That village is the community you and your family live in: your neighbors, the local school and the businesses and organizations in the area. These individuals and groups, whether apparent or not, are valuable resources to parents raising children and community members in general. That's why it is essential that once children are old enough, they start learning how to contribute to the community around them.
How to introduce your child to volunteering
If you're thinking about volunteering with your child and getting involved with the community, you might have several questions and concerns. Will your kids understand why volunteering is important? Will they be cooperative and helpful or simply an obstacle? This article in the Washington Post shares author Meredith Hale’s personal experience with ushering her daughter into her first service project. It also includes some ideas for how to explain and discuss it with your kids. Like Hale, you will probably find that your children make great volunteers and take great joy in giving back.
Why giving back is essential to child development
It's taken for granted that community service, otherwise known as “giving back” matters. To many, it's obvious, but if you're a parent looking to encourage your child to volunteer or participate in a community event, it's important for you and your family to think critically about why giving back matters. This article from Roots of Action explores just a few of the many reasons why volunteering is essential to child development, some of which include helping a child find their place in society, develop empathy for others, and foster their identities as engaged citizens. It also reports that community involvement creates more responsible leaders and innovative thinkers.
How volunteering can impact a community and your family
When you or your child volunteers for a good cause, the benefits extend far beyond yourself, your child or even your family as a whole. This article from Kids Health lists some of the many ways that volunteering can have positive impacts: it unites individuals, promotes education and learning, and helps strengthen a community as a whole. When a community is stronger, the individuals who live in it (including your family) are also happier and healthier. Furthermore, volunteering can help strengthen your family. Besides giving a great opportunity to have quality time together, it also gives your family the chance to develop team skills and work together. For that reason, Kids Health suggests you make volunteer work a part of your family tradition.
Finding a volunteer opportunity that suits your child
Depending on your children’s ages, skill sets and personalities, they may find themselves drawn to varying types of community work. Thankfully, there's an endless amount of options. The helpful article 40 Ways Kids Can Volunteer, Toddler to Teen by Laura Grace Weldon offers 40 innovative for ways your kids can start getting involved, whether they're 4 or 14. In the piece, Weldon makes the important observation that the best volunteer opportunities may not present themselves “officially”. She encourages parents to help their child think mindfully and seek out activities that benefit the community which may exist outside of volunteer or community organizations. Thoughtful actions such as helping a neighbor with yardwork, putting on a garage sale and donating the proceeds, and running errands for a sick neighbor are all constructive and wonderful community involvement ideas. With so many options, it's easy to find a choice that suits your child and his or her personality.
Service projects you can do from home with a busy schedule
It's not uncommon to hear someone say something like, “I’d love to volunteer, but I just don't have time or resources.” The good news is that volunteering and giving back to the community isn't something that has to take up hours of your week; in fact, many opportunities can happen right from your living room and will never interfere with swim practice, family night or dad’s football games. While your community should be a priority, it's understandable that sometimes life gets hectic. For some ideas and ways on how to juggle a busy life and community involvement, check out this article from Red Tricycle which contains ten creative ways that your family can better the community from your own living room. Gather old toys to donate, donate non perishable food, or write birthday cards for the elderly to name just a few.
Whether you're taking part in a food drive, helping serve up meals at the local shelter, or simply helping an elderly or sick neighbor with yardwork or errands--when your children contribute to their community they learn valuable life skills, develop compassion for others, and learn how to be constructive and innovative members of society. Plus, volunteer opportunities are a great way to spend quality time with your kids and unite your family; there's no reason to wait, go ahead and find a way to participate in your community that suits you and your child and watch how giving back can transform lives and the world around you.