If you already have a full schedule, it might be difficult to see how you can become a volunteer, even if you want to help solve community problems. But volunteering is something families often find worthwhile when they do it together. Family volunteering can be done by the whole family or by one parent and one child as a special “twosome” project, or siblings or extended family may volunteer together. The recipient of your volunteer services benefits by having more helpers at one time.
Volunteering together is “quality time” with each other while doing something worthwhile for someone else. You get to know your children in new ways, and they get to know a different side of you as well. Demonstrating skills and learning new ones provides the chance to work toward the same goals – and talk about it together.
If volunteering together is new to your family, here is a way to start:
Discuss as a family and take time to consider the idea of volunteering, including even young children.
Discuss what community problems concern other family members. If some ideas intrigue the whole family, explore organizations working on these issues. Use the phone book, local library, churches or youth organizations to gather ideas.
Consider what types of activities everyone wants to do, including things you know how to do or would like to learn how to do. This is a great chance to acknowledge the talents of each family member.
Contact organizations to check out your options. You may want to begin with a one-time activity to test the water to see how everyone likes volunteering together.
Once you have committed to a project, take it seriously. Show your children that volunteer work is important and meaningful. Plan ahead to do it, even when things get hectic. Some projects may introduce you and your children to new ideas or to people different from themselves. It’s a wonderful opportunity to pass along your values and ethics, but only if you take the time to talk about everyone’s feelings and reactions.
Special holidays are ideal occasions to emphasize the spirit of volunteering with your children. Volunteering as a family extends the gift of giving time as well as the contribution of helping hands and hearts.
Volunteering as a family helps strengthen family bonds, enhances communication, and sends a message to your children that you’re all in it together!
Enjoy what your children will learn from your active example, and take pride in the fact that you’ll be teaching them how to be well-rounded kids now, and responsible young people and adults later on.
– Kathleen A. Olson is a family relations educator with
University of Minnesota Extension.