What are your kids like?
Raising a good child who cares about others starts by being a good family that cares about others.
How can you accomplish this? Easy -- volunteer as a family together.
“The science is profound that volunteering as a family not only is good for others and helps society but also benefits the individual,” said Jenny Friedman, executive director of Doing Good Together, www.doinggoodtogether.org. “No matter the age, both children and adults benefit from volunteering.”
By volunteering as a family, “parents are sharing their ideals and values with their children,” added Heather Jack, founder of The Volunteer Family, www.thevolunteerfamily.org. “Kids learn a sense of empathy and of compassion for others and become aware of social issues and the world around them.”
Basically said, volunteering builds character and helps people feel good about themselves. Likely families would volunteer more if only they had more time.
“Everyone says, ‘We’re too busy,’ but we don’t tend to be busy together,” Friedman said.
Volunteering as a family “is an opportunity to carve out time the family is together and is doing something positive,” Friedman said. Volunteering together “makes us more of a team. It connects us.”
If you haven’t volunteered recently, it may be a bit overwhelming getting started. What age is volunteering right for? How do I find opportunities?
The experts say it’s easier than you think. Friedman and Jack recently collaborated on a website called Big Hearted Families, www. bigheartedfamilies.org, a collection of resources to help busy families find ways to volunteer. They offer these tips:
- Children are never too young. Strap your infant in a stroller and take part in a walk-a-thon to raise money for cancer research, or go and visit the elderly at a local nursing home. Toddlers and preschoolers enjoy crafty kitchen table projects such as creating “happy mail” for children with chronic illnesses, www.hugsandhope.org or www.sendkidstheworld.com.
- When kids get a little older, consider having a sleepover birthday party and instead of gifts chose a charity your child is interested in such as the World Wildlife Fund, www.worldwildlife.org, and ask participants to donate in your child’s name. Grab a car full of 13-year-olds and head out together to do charity work. It can be as simple as picking up trash in a local park.
- Many volunteering opportunities are available only to adults and older kids, but you can still help. If your child isn’t old enough to help at the homeless or pet shelter, consider donating a meal you baked together or using allowance money to purchase pet food to donate.