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How can we begin to teach our children how important it is to volunteer in their community? Certainly we can initiate this process by starting early and as their primary adult role models, begin by setting a good example for our children. If your family is involved in volunteering in the community, then it will become second nature to your children. You know that old saying, “lead by example”, well that is very true when it comes to young children. If they see that you put a lot of value on assisting others then they will too.
What benefits come from your children volunteering or supporting causes in their communities?
· Helps you make new friends and increases self esteem/self confidence– What are the benefits? The benefits can be amazing when a family gets involved in volunteering, no matter what the capacity. But a great side effect of volunteering is that it allows children to spread their wings and forge new relationships with other children and adults in their community. This allows them to strengthen their ties to the community and in doing so increases their support network. This trickledown effect can have amazing outcomes for your children. It improves their self-esteem and self worth and they tend to do better in school.
· Children can implement positive change – Firstly, children learn what a difference they can make in the lives of other children and their families. That what they do can change someone’s life for the better. For instance, if they just spend time every week with an elderly neighbor, that has no family, they can really make that person feel loved and valued. This small gesture by our young children can really show them that they do matter and can make a difference in this world.
· Awareness of your community – Also having young people get out there in their communities can teach a child about diversity and they can learn that there are many children and their families in their own neighborhoods that maybe struggling with issues that are out of their control. Young children can learn to have empathy and share their opportunities with other families.
· Makes you happy– Many studies have shown that assisting and helping others leads to smiles and feeling good about yourself; in turn it builds self-esteem.
What are some ideas for volunteering?
· Jump in feet first– It can be as simple as having your children rake the leaves, take in/out the garbage, or shovel snow for someone in the neighborhood who may fine these tasks difficult. The younger ones can draw a picture/send a card for a sick person. If they just do these small chores/gestures without being asked; the child will feel good about themselves and want to continue.
· Food Drives – There are so many ways for kids to get involved…with the holidays coming up the little ones can donate can goods and non-perishable items to help families have a wonderful holiday. Let them pick the items that they want to donate so they feel like they are helping. Let them choose some items that make their Thanksgiving or Christmas meal special and they can share that with others.
· Join a cause – Get your family involved in a cause that is close to your heart. If someone in your family is a breast cancer survivor, then get involved in a walk, or donate money that they earned to the cause or start your own fundraising campaign at your child’s school or early learning center.
· Make a Donation– You can have your children donate their gently used clothes and toys to charitable organizations such as Toys for Tots, Salvation Army, etc. Further, you can get them involved in all sorts of drives: coat drives, toy drives, peanut butter drives and food drives. Let your children know that they can start these fundraisers at their schools and early learning centers. Tell them or their parents to talk to their teachers about getting one started at your center or school. Let your children know that they can make things happen and can really have a good time doing it. It’s fun to see that something that you envisioned has come to life and really can be successful.
Please let your children know that the ideas are limitless for getting involved in your community and it doesn’t have to be a big endeavor. It can be as small as taking the time out of your day to have a conversation with a neighbor or running a car wash to raise money for a friend or community person. Just get involved…the benefits are boundless!
Kelli Didomenico brings over 20 years of experience to her role as Director of Family Engagement at The Children’s Workshop. In her role she welcomes and supports children and families directly but also supports the company’s center Directors to encourage families to become actively involved in their child’s education through parent committees, family events, and by volunteering in our classrooms. Additionally, she reaches out to form partnerships that enhance the services that The Children’s Workshop can provide for its families. Kelli earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Rhode Island College.