I love this post and have been wanting to write about service and volunteerism for awhile now (I’m even thinking this may be my next Naked Parenting topic. You can vote here.) It’s so important to teach our kids perspective, giving, and gratitude in our world of plenty.
Do you struggle to teach your children about the value of “stuff” and the importance of helping others? Do you search for ways to teach your kids to appreciate what they have and to offer some perspective?
Set the example and volunteer together, locally and globally. Explain to your kids why you give money to whom you do. Use a variety of ways to teach the lessons of serving and gratitude. Multiple experiences and regular volunteerism, or involvement in a cause, will have a greater impact on children than the once-in-a-blue-moon approach.
- Make volunteering a family tradition, perhaps serving meals at a community kitchen every Easter or collecting cans for the food pantry every fall. Our town has a monthly dinner at which we volunteer regularly. The kids feel a pride in knowing what to do now and they return home with hungry bellies after working through dinnertime, but they don’t complain anymore as they’ve learned that those they just served may not know when their next meal will be.
- Host a touring group from another country. Often through churches or schools you can find groups that travel and look for local families to house them for a few days or a week. These opportunities to connect with kids of other cultures and to learn about varied life circumstances can be invaluable. We’ve hosted children from Uganda as part of the Destiny Africa Children’s Choir (www.destinyafrica.org) and that involvement led us to spearhead a major fundraising effort to build their community a much-needed medical center (see #8). (www.KampalaHope.org).
- Grab a few garbage bags and take a clean-up walk. We’ve done this in different ways with our kids: in our neighborhood, on woodsy hikes and as a part of organized efforts to clean the state parks. Cleaning up without recognition or reward teaches kids good citizenship.
- Have kids make donations with their own money. As kids get old enough to earn money from odd jobs or an allowance, encourage them to set aside money to give to causes they believe in. Perhaps its the local animal shelter or a camp that helps disabled children. Teach kids to allocate their money three ways: saving, spending and giving so they learn the importance of giving a portion away.
- Get involved with a literacy group such as Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and collect books and read to children. Activities that get you and your children face-to-face with those you’re serving are so important and valuable. Children can relate to other children and it makes the lesson of giving more concrete for them.
- Only if it’s truly the child’s decision and desire, allow them to request donations for a charity in lieu of birthday gifts. I’m always a little leery of this if it’s a parent’s influence but when it’s the child’s wish, it can be very effective. Recently, one of my daughter’s friends accepted donations for Heifer International for her 10th birthday and she was so excited selecting the animals she was able to donate to those in need. She was able to change lives in a way she can’t even fully grasp but will feel proud of for years.
- Participate in “Giving Trees” at Christmastime. Opportunities to give and teach service to children abound around the holidays. Allow your children to select the child or family they want to support, then take them shopping to choose the toy or item the anonymous child requested. If you have several children, you can have them each pick a tag from the tree. Again, if older kids have their own money, having them make the purchase, or part of the purchase, adds to their learning.
- When your child’s school has a fundraising campaign for a cause or to help a local family in need, have your child bring money from their own piggy bank. It’s exponentially more valuable than bringing in a parent’s money. The amount isn’t what’s important, it’s the giving of something that is their’s that matters most. When our daughter’s school chose the Kampala Childrens’ Centre for Hope and Wellness (the medical center in Uganda we were working to build) as the recipient of their “Change for Change” drive, kids were baking cupcakes to sell and donating the proceeds, other kids made jewelry to raise money to donate and many students brought in baggies of coins to add to the collection. These kids had seen the Destiny Africa Choir perform in their school and were so inspired that they rallied to contribute. In the end, that school raised $2000.00 alone.
- Have your older child volunteer at a local shelter, food pantry or nursing home. The consistency of building relationships and a connection to something that matters to them over time will teach empathy, caring and will have lasting value.
- Participate in larger service-oriented trips and activities. Annually, our church youth group travels to an impoverished area in South Carolina where they give up their school vacation to repair and rebuild homes for those in great need. These high schoolers return home changed and wizened from the experience. Seek out other service activities, such as participation in World Vision’s 30-Hour Famine teaching kids about world hunger issues, can be powerful for tweens and teens.
Thank you, Mother’s Circle readers, for your support, your sharing, your votes on Top Mommy Blogs, and your kind emails and comments! Thank you for clicking on the image below to vote!
Enjoy volunteering with your kids!
© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014
This post originally appeared as a guest post on Happier Better Life, Deborah has since stopped blogging so the full post is here. Check out my 10 Tips to Teach Kids About Volunteerism.