One question every parent wonders is, “Am I raising my kids to care for others?”
Compassion is a universal virtue, something all parents want to instill in their children. We want them not only to have an innate desire to help others, but also to feel empowered to address society’s needs.
Volunteering is one way that children can learn to grow in the virtue of compassion. Not only will they learn the values of empathy and kindness, but they will also grow to trust in their own abilities to make a difference.
Parents can take the lead in exposing their kids to the benefits of volunteering, which can ultimately inspire them to volunteer on their own.
Role modeling is a very effective technique to suggest the importance of a certain skill or habit to young children. When children see their parents role modeling a particular behavior regularly, they understand it as a normal way of life. With that in mind, if parents volunteer regularly, it is likely that their children will grow up believing that volunteering is good, and they also will likely volunteer themselves. Parents can increase this probability by talking positively about volunteering, discussing the results of their service, and showing excitement for upcoming volunteer opportunities.
Introduce Kids to Volunteering Early
When kids are introduced to volunteering at a young age, they are more likely to continue volunteering as they grow. While it might seem like a daunting task to bring a child to a volunteering project, try to take a “baby steps” approach. Don’t bring them to complicated, busy and long projects right off the bat. Instead, start slow. Create the Good suggests finding opportunities that allow flexibility and short shifts. For example, you could start at a food bank, where you could dedicate as little as 30 minutes at a time to an easy task. Making even a very simple volunteer project a part of your regular week can be enough to inspire a lifelong volunteer.
Let Kids Choose
Children are remarkably innovative when given the room to be so, and research is showing that even the youngest members of Generation Z are effecting major change. So, allowing them to choose a volunteering opportunity or even to create a way to solve a community need is a great way to inspire the volunteer in them. Instead of telling them you’re taking them to volunteer (which, to them, might sound a lot like you’re telling them to clean their room), sit down and talk about what volunteering is all about, why it’s important, and how good it can make you and others feel. Then, encourage your kids to think about good and fun ways they can volunteer to help others. After they come up with a few ideas, check out VolunteerMatch for an opportunity in your area, or let your kids create their own plan!
Volunteer as a Family
These days, families are hungry for opportunities to spend quality time together, when they are unplugged and doing something productive. Such opportunities are hard to come by, given how busy and digitally connected our lives have become. But, volunteering is the perfect way to experience that quality time and to inspire young kids to volunteer. In fact, volunteering as a family can accomplish the first three strategies in this list all at once! In an article for the United Way of Southwest Louisiana, Warren Arceneaux writes that volunteering as a family is an effective way for parents and children to interact and strengthen relationships. It is a way for parents to teach children new skills and talk about the importance of their work. When families engage in volunteer work regularly, parents are laying the foundation for a lifetime of service.
Parents are their children’s first teachers, and they have an important and special opportunity to instill the value of service in their children. By actively encouraging volunteering, parents will not only increase the likelihood that their children will be lifelong volunteers, but – perhaps more importantly – they will also deepen their bonds with their children.
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