The benefits to your child of volunteering are truly innumerable. Colleges often look beyond grades to see community involvement with applicants, and volunteering can give your child useful real-world skills. Volunteering is a great opportunity for all kids to make friends and for shy kids to learn important social skills. Most importantly, though, volunteering teaches kids gratitude, humility, and compassion. A child who is involved in his community will be less demanding and less self centered, and even very young children can get involved in volunteer work.
Ideally you should work with your child’s unique interests and skills to find something that works for him. No child should be forced into volunteering. Here are five excellent opportunities for kids:
Adopt a Grandparent
The elderly are living much longer and the baby boomers are beginning to age. Thus there is a huge (and growing) population of older shut ins or single older adults who are lonely. Moreover, many parents are opting to have children later in life, which means that children often grow up without grandparents. Grandparents have much to offer children, and volunteering with an adopt a grandparent program will give your child a cherished and loving role model and will help your child to reach out to a lonely older person. If there is not an adopt a grandparent program in your area, look into organizations like meals on wheels or see if there are volunteer organizations that visit shut-ins. Visiting the elderly at a nursing home or retirement home can also be a great way for a child to bring some companionship into a lonely person’s life while also benefiting from the considerable wisdom of the older generation
Homeless animals have reached epidemic proportions in most cities, and many of the animals waiting for a home in a shelter need some extra love. Walking animals at an animal shelter provides the dogs and cats with much-needed socialization and ensures that they will be a great match for their new family. Encourage your child to volunteer as a dog walker at your local humane society. It will be fun (and may get them to stop nagging you for a puppy) and your child will be able to make a real difference in the life of a homeless animal.
Even preteens can volunteer to work in a local church nursery, but with older children, childcare is an excellent way to get some real life skills and help parents in desperate need.Most homeless shelters need childcare, and many government offices are seeking childcare providers for a few hours while moms and dads attend parenting classes. Your teenage volunteer will not only get to have fun hanging out with kids, but can make a meaningful difference in the lives of other kids.
Tree planting programs, recycling programs, and litter pickup are some of the most important volunteer work that needs to be done, but most adults don’t have a schedule that allows them to do this work during the day, when it needs to be done. Encourage your child to get involved with an environmental program for kids. Look into your local Sierra Club or do research on local Arbor Day events.
It’s easy to forget that sometimes the kids in your own school may be the ones who need help. Many schools have peer tutoring and mentoring programs. If your child excels at a particular school subject, look into opportunities for them to volunteer as a tutor to their peers. Kid tutors will enjoy feeling like an authority on a particular topic, and many kids learn better from a peer than they do from any adult.