5 WAYS TO ENCOURAGE VOLUNTEERISM IN YOUR CHILD
There are so many positive outcomes for children learning the value of volunteerism, it’s almost difficult to know where to start.
Just a few that come to mind:
- Shifting focus from themselves and their own needs to others
- Establishing a life-long habit
- Contributing to the community and society
- Teaching not everyone has access to the same opportunities or resources that they may take for granted
- Performing a task beyond simple chores
Teaching a child the value of volunteerism, helping others and not always being self-focused, will build character and empathy for others.
1. STAGE VOLUNTEERISM AS A REWARD
Don’t make volunteerism sound like a punishment or a burden. Instead, position it as a reward for good behavior or something to which to look forward.
Of course, don’t underestimate your child’s intelligence – they can smell a con game a mile away. So, if you know they are going to push back from helping clean the beach, give them choices.
We can do either this or that. Don’t offer the option not to do anything, but, at least, they will feel somewhat in control.
Depending on your child (you know best), you might lead up to the volunteer activity slowly. Mention how lonely retirees must be at the nearby Retirement Home. Tell a story about running into one and discovering they rarely have visitors.
Wait a day and bring it up again in a different context. Finally, when ready, suggest the idea of going over together to read stories to them.
I am not suggesting lying, by the way. Feel free to actually do some research to make sure you are putting your child into a comfortable environment whether it’s a Retirement Home or a Dog Pound.
This is a very important lesson you are teaching your child and it deserves a little effort.
2. MAKE IT FUN
Fun and age-appropriate. Begin by finding volunteer opportunities that match with your child’s age and interests. For example, if they love animals, find something where they can work with dogs or cats.
There are also horse ranches where rescued horses are used for therapy.
If your child has strong ties to Grandparents, you might consider having them read to retirees in a nearby retirement community. You can always expand into other unrelated areas as they get used to the concept. Start with the familiar.
Consider having them join in the search for where to volunteer next. Allow them to be part of the process.
3. GIVE GREAT FEEDBACK
Don’t forget the basics. Thank them for volunteering, for doing such a great job, and making a difference. Be sure to point out what might have happened if they hadn’t volunteered. “Mr. Smith would have had such a lonely day if you hadn’t showed up to read to him!’ or “Just look at what a mess this park was until you helped clean it up!”
Make it clear that, because of their effort, they made a big difference. This will teach them self-esteem and appreciation.
Don’t lose sight that you are trying to connect how children feel about themselves with their actions.
4. INCORPORATE INTO A FAMILY VACATION
If we agree that volunteerism should be a way of life for all of us, then why not make it a part of your next family vacation? Combine the good feelings created by having fun with the family with helping others.
This is a connection a child will keep for the rest of their lives and, probably, continue with their own family one day.
Volunteering should be considered to be as great a reward as spending the day at Disneyland or on the beach in the Caribbean. In fact, it is particularly appropriate when enjoying an experience that, possibly, others can’t afford or, for other reasons, participate.
The good feelings from making a difference in other people’s live or in the community, in general, will last far longer than the fun spending at an amusement park. The satisfaction of helping others lasts forever.
Make it part of the agenda, just like all the other events, such as a special restaurant or visiting a special tourist site. Pretty soon, it will become part of your family culture and expected.
5. JOIN IN
Children learn from the examples we parents create. Good or bad, they often follow in our footsteps.
Don’t hesitate to jump in and join the fun. Don’t allow yourself to simply observe; participate! It will feel less like a task, and more like a family event.
As parents, we tend to focus only on activities like swimming team, soccer, piano lessons, dance class, karate class and, to an exhausting degree, so much more. Does that sound familiar?
Why isn’t volunteerism included? You may need to sacrifice a lesson here or there, but, in the balance of things, how would you rate learning to help others compared to one of the many activities we usually sign up our children?
Click here for a website that can help you find suitable avenues for volunteering.