How to Encourage Children to Volunteer

By Savannah Marie

Volunteering helps to build character, instill compassion, and teach responsibility. Giving your children the opportunity to volunteer is one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever give them. Some children may be hesitant about the idea at first and may require a bit of encouragement.

Here are some tips for doing it.

Start Small
Start with something small and non-intimidating, especially if your child is shy. Thrusting a child in the midst of a crowd of people to work in an unfamiliar setting will probably not make for a very good first volunteering experience.
Does Grandma need some weeding done? Encourage your child to offer to do it for her. From there you can graduate to volunteering to help a familiar neighbor and then a community member your child may not know very well. Just be sure that you know and trust that person, and it’s probably a good idea to be present even then.

Arouse Their Interest
Suggest volunteer opportunities that correspond to your child’s interests or passions. If your child is an animal lover, discuss how the local animal shelter always needs volunteer help — even if it’s just cleaning out the kennels or checking the Havahart traps. Does your child enjoy spending time outdoors? See if there’s a community garden that needs volunteers.
Usually if the task at hand is interesting to a child, he or she will be far more likely to be enthusiastic about it. Positive volunteer experiences will help nurture a love for service and can help to develop your child’s desire to volunteer wherever help is needed — whether it’s an enjoyable task or not.

Encourage Compassion
Help your child see a need, even when the need isn’t obvious. Residents of senior nursing facilities can be some of the loneliest people on earth. The need for companionship and conversation can be easily overlooked as the rest of the world goes about its busy life.

Ask your child what he or she thinks it would feel like if he or she had to live in a small room without getting to see friends or family every day. Explore that feeling together and then explain this is how so many elderly feel every day — that one or two hours out of your child’s week could make all the difference in the world to one person.

This can help develop your child’s sense of empathy, which is crucial to a lifelong love of volunteering. It can also lay the foundation for a beautiful, unique friendship that your child will cherish the rest of his or her life … not to mention bring some much-needed joy into the life of another.

Reflect on the Volunteer Time
Catalogue your child’s experiences. Discuss how volunteering made your child feel and encourage him or her to record those experiences in a journal. Ask if there was one person in particular your child felt he or she made a difference to, or if there were any aspects of the experience your child didn’t like.

Both positive and negative experiences can be reflected on later. The positive feelings can reinforce a desire to volunteer. The negative aspects can be used as a learning tool. Why was it less than positive? What could you do differently next time to make it better? Did the positives outweigh the negatives? Even though you didn’t enjoy some moments, do you feel like it was an overall good experience?

Think Outside the Box
Explore non-traditional means of volunteering. You don’t always have to go somewhere to do a good deed for someone else. Your child can volunteer his or her time right from home. Consider sending letters of gratitude to a soldier or his or her family. Design invitation flyers for your church’s upcoming youth rally. Donate some money to a local charity.

Just because your child isn’t working onsite doesn’t mean it’s not a form of volunteering. Participating in activities such as these can teach your child that there’s always time and opportunities to serve others, even when you can’t physically be there.

Moving in the Right Direction
Instilling a sense of philanthropy through volunteer work can be done at any age; even toddlers experience great pride and joy when they know they’ve made someone else smile. Volunteering can help pull introverted kids out of their shell, improve social skills, develop leadership skills, and encourage a team mentality.

The catch is that you the parent must provide the encouragement and opportunities for your child to experience it all. If you really have no idea where to begin, try checking with the local religious communities and government agencies first. These organizations usually have no shortage of causes that need attention and most will welcome any volunteer they can get.

You can also check with well-known charities for volunteer information. When you and your child start looking for opportunities to help others, you may be amazed at just how many needs there are out there — and you just might discover a new sense of purpose in the process.

About Savannah Marie:

Savannah Marie is a public relations graduate of Tulane University and a PR specialist in Harrisburg, PA. As a mom of two, she writes about parenthood and struggles that are true to her own life. She has quickly learned that the proverb “It takes a village” is completely true and hopes her articles help her fellow villagers. She also contributes articles to her own blog, Mixios.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *