Tis the Season of Selfishness for many kids and teens who can be consumed with the focus on materialism that accompanies the holiday season. Parents have a wonderful opportunity during the holidays to teach their children the true meaning of the holiday spirit, which is experiencing the joy of giving.
During the holidays (and year-round) it can be easy for families to feel disconnected as they juggle work, school, and activities. Families that volunteer together experience a special bond. In addition to children learning important life skills and developing good character, the parents and kids share joy, memories and empowerment by making a positive difference (Corporation for National & Community Service).
Volunteering shows kids that giving your time, effort and kindness is more rewarding than only expecting to receive presents. Teach kids to give gifts of time helping others.
Youth who volunteer just one hour a week are 50% less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or become pregnant than those who do not volunteer (Journal of Primary Prevention, 17).
Volunteering leads to improvement in reading level, grades, and self-esteem (childtrends.org).
When kids and teens volunteer they grow into adults who are more likely to have a positive work ethic, be socially responsible, and philanthropic (childtrends.org).
The number one reason youth start volunteering is because someone asked them to.Volunteering teaches youth:
A sense of responsibility;
That one person can make a difference;
The benefit of sacrifice;
Job and life skills; and,
Productive use of their time.
Teens say that the benefits they received from volunteering are:
Learning to respect others;
Learning to be helpful and kind;
Learning to understand people who are different;
Developing leadership skills;
Expanding their social network;
Becoming more patient; and,
Understanding the importance of citizenship.
When asked why they continue to volunteer, youth report:
• feeling compassion for people in need;
• believing they can do something for a good cause; or,
• believing if they help others, others will help them (Search Institute).
Children under the age of 14 are an underutilized resource for volunteering. Most children age five or older can volunteer. The earlier children get involved in volunteering they are more likely to adopt it as a lifestyle choice through their teens and adulthood. Two-thirds of adult volunteers report they started volunteering when they were young.
Five Ideas for Kids and Families to Volunteer Together:
Many parents are busy and unsure of where or how to volunteer with their children. Families can volunteer through a nonprofit agency or on their own. Sometimes parents find it difficult to locate a nonprofit agency that accepts kids under age 12 to volunteer. Below are some great resources for kids of all ages and their families to give back this holiday season and year-round.
1. Kids can help senior adults in many ways such as: (1) making holiday cards or coloring pictures and delivering these items (with their parents) to a senior center; (2) kids can teach seniors how to use technology like Facetime to “see” distant relatives over the holidays; (3) Kids, who sing or play a musical instrument, can entertain seniors with a performance.
2. Kids can put cookies or candy in baggies with a special message and deliver the goodies as a
thank you to the local police or fire department.
3. Kids can select new or gently used toys to give to a neighborhood community center for a children’s playroom or to be given to a youth in need.
4. Indy with Kids provides lists and links to family volunteering opportunities:
5. ProAct Indy engages youth (and families) year-round in volunteerism:
Parent resources to empower youth to lead happy, healthy and safe lives are available on the website: http://www.socialhealth.org or by calling 317-667-0340