Volunteer work teaches family members the value of caring and giving back. Many families notice how much closer they become when they start serving together—and how much more they appreciate what they have. Research has also shown that when kids volunteer, they are building up their Developmental Assets, the “building blocks” they need in order to grow up to be caring, successful, resilient adults.
Finding Issues That Matter to You
You’re more likely to volunteer and keep volunteering if you find issues and projects that matter to you. For example, a family with teenagers who are interested in technology might volunteer for a nonprofit organization that needs assistance working with digital photographs, soundboards, and doing video editing. If you have young children, or your family loves pets, you could volunteer to help out at an animal shelter once a month.
- Identify your family’s areas of interest. Talk to your family and determine which issues you are interested in and which activities you would like to engage in. Are you most concerned about low-income people, senior citizens, refugees, or homeless individuals? Or is your family more passionate about caring for abandoned animals or the environment?
- It can be helpful to try a few different types of service or volunteering. Decide together the types of things you would like to try once, and start with those. Be sure to choose projects that allow every family member, regardless of age, to contribute in a meaningful way.
- Actively involve children in choosing and planning service projects. Pay attention to what interests them and what they seem most concerned about, as those are areas in which they are likely to invest more energy. Give them responsibilities that match their abilities and interests.
- Start looking for opportunities where you already have connections. For example, you may find appropriate family activities through a faith community (church, mosque, synagogue, temple, or other religious organization), workplace, or community or service organization.
- If you have friends or family members who volunteer regularly, ask them if your family can join them sometime. Talk with other families about whether they would like to do something together.
- Remember: Nothing will kill your family’s enthusiasm faster than becoming involved in a project that drains your energy and time. When you find short, easy service projects to do as a family, you’re more likely to feel energized, feel like you’re making a difference, and want to do more.
- Start with projects you can do at home. For example, make cookies to deliver to a sick neighbor or a grandparent in the hospital; assemble birthday bags to donate to a local food pantry; make blankets for a crisis nursery; or create greeting cards for hospitalized children.
- It is often much easier to join projects that are already underway. Read newsletters from your school, faith community, workplace, or other networks. They often include invitations to participate in one-time projects, such as a clean-up day or painting. They can be a great way to meet other families that are interested in volunteering.
- Consider participating in a project on National Family Volunteer Day (the Saturday before Thanksgiving), or one of the other Seasons of Service days throughout the year. Many communities sponsor special activities on these days, making it easy to get started and to meet other family volunteers.
Serving others as a family has many benefits, including setting a very good example for your children. Getting involved in a cause that your family feels strongly about will make it much easier to continue your service for many years to come.
Free Webinar: Join Us!
Strengths to Make It Through: How Families Can Grow Together Through Everyday Challenges . . . and Big Stuff, presented by Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, Ph.D., Vice President, Research and Development at Search Institute
Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 12PM - 1PM, CST