Volunteering 101: How to Raise a Service-Oriented Child
The holiday season brings out the desire in many families to do some service work, but many don't know where to begin. I've outlined some lessons we've learned along the way that will help you choose what to do, and make it a good experience.
Tips on volunteering:
1. Pick your passion – Before you can decide “how” to help, you have to pick “who”. What are you passionate about? Kids – animals – the homeless – disease/illness? What cause moves you the most? When you know who you want to serve, then you can move on to where and how.
2. Enroll them – Communicate why this is important to you, and what's in it for them. Create your bigger “why” and ask your family to share their thoughts on why they are agreeing to do volunteer work. Let your children have some input on the project that you choose, and how they can help.
3. Make it easy – Choose a project that matches your skill level, fits your time commitment, and engages the whole family. If you bite off a project that's too big or too stressful, you'll risk unrest in your home, and anchoring volunteer work as hard and something to avoid.
3. Make it short & repeatable – I suggest picking something that can be done in short intervals on a regular basis, versus a monumental project that could cause burn out and you only do once and then never repeat. Choosing something that can be repeated will establish deep connections for your family and the project. This could create memories your family will cherish for a lifetime.
4. Find teaching moments – Use service work as an opportunity to bond as a family and instill your values in your children. Reaching out to help others is a character building moment, and you can use these experiences to teach your children about life.
5. Make it fun – Attitude will determine whether the time goes by slowly or quickly. Make it fun by singing or creating games or friendly competitions. Offer a prize for the person who does XYZ. Get creative. If you can associate “serving” with “fun”, you will raise children that become lifelong humanitarians.
6. Invite others to join you – “Many hands make light work” is a timeless principle that applies to charitable work as well. Inviting friends, extended family members, or neighbors to come along with you will make the work go faster and feel even more enjoyable.
7. Celebrate your success – To acknowledge completing your goal, take the time to celebrate your achievement. You could have a pre-planned idea or a spontaneous reward to mark your success. It can be something as small as going out for ice cream or picnic at the park. I've seen some families earn big day trips or vacations through reaching their goal of volunteer hours served. Whatever your approach, make sure you celebrate your success. This will anchor service work and charity as a positive experience, and it'll enhance your memory of the project.
Remember, volunteer work should not be daunting or complicated – don't over think it. You can use sites like VolunteerMatch.org to help you find local needs right in your hometown. So what are you waiting for?
Theodore Roosevelt said it perfectly, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” You're going to do great. Your efforts will be greatly appreciated. I challenge you to get started today. Then come back and post your results so we can all celebrate!