Doing good is not simply something that can be accomplished once to achieve some kind of karmic balance; it should be an integral part of an individual’s lifestyle. Worth noting is that the type of positive work matters less than you’d think. While it’s true that some types of volunteering, particularly abroad, can actually be detrimental to locals, many opportunities in your own hometown can be found that will genuinely make an impact.
Additionally, this attitude of selflessness can be taught. Children can easily be shown that their actions can make a positive difference on those around them, and carry those values through their entire lives. Consider the benefits of getting the entire family involved in volunteering.
That said, it can be difficult to sell children on the idea that they should dedicate their time to helping others. It pays to make them part of the process before you even figure out what you’ll be doing. Everyone in the family has different schedules, so sit down and talk about which opportunities everyone is willing and able to pursue. For sure, there’s a lot out there—see if things like helping with food drives, participating in cleaning a local park or street, or collecting clothing interest your children. There are even ways to investigate volunteer opportunities in your area!
When choosing an idea, be sure to mold your efforts to something appropriate for the age of your children. Younger children may be less adept at cleaning up a park, but well-suited to packing boxes of clothing for the less fortunate. As they get older, the potential to help out with manual labor—possibly even raking leaves or shoveling snow for neighbors in need—increases. That’s not to say that you should force any kind of work on your children. The idea here is to foster a love of volunteering and the notion that they can make a difference. Making these efforts a huge chore for them may cause them to grow resentful and be less willing to pursue opportunities in the future.
Even beyond going out and volunteering, there are still ways to instill the giving spirit in children. Talking to them about donating toys and clothing they’ve outgrown can put them in the mindset to give back. Explain the benefits that their old belongings can have to another child. Then, try organizing a clothing or toy drive with that in mind; if they show enthusiasm for the idea, they may go above and beyond when trying to help!
Which brings us to an important part of volunteering as a family: leverage the enthusiasm of your children. If there’s a cause or project they’re particularly passionate about, support their efforts! After you’ve accomplished something, celebrate with dinner and talk about what you can do next time to continue the initiative. After all, volunteering goes best when it becomes a habit.
Volunteering and community involvement are not things that need to be left to adults. Having an honest discussion with children about the benefits of giving back can profoundly affect their lives, and encourage them to do good in the world wherever they may go.