Guest Author - Lisa Polovin Pinkus
Children Benefit from Volunteering
Volunteering is typically associated with devoting time and energy, free of charge, to assist with the betterment of someone else’s life. The goal is to improve the quality or improve living situations for others. Those who receive the benefits of the kindness of others can attest to the power of a little going a long way.
Research also shows that the giver in these situations also receives tremendous benefits. Though altruistically intentioned, the giver also gets something out of the volunteer experience. Families who engage in community service efforts provide their children with a gift that will, most likely, carry into adulthood.
- Connection (to community reduces at-risk behavior)
A child who volunteers at an animal shelter, a home for the elderly, or a homeless shelter has the opportunity to connect with an extended community. Children can feel a part of something meaningful and important.
At-risk behaviors are less likely and good choices are made in challenging situations when a child feels connected to something.
- Confidence builder
Spending time helping others is a good boost for confidence, self-worth, and identity. Doing service for others greatly benefits the receiver, but the giver feels good as well.
- Good for stress management – benefit of helping others, expressing gratitude
Volunteering is an expression of gratitude. It is something that boosts morale. Awareness of another’s experience helps one appreciate what he or she has. Seeing another person’s struggles may help your child put his struggles into perspective, allowing him to feel gratitude for all that he has. And, at the most basic level, giving her time to help someone else may ease your daughter’s own tension.
- Mind, body, and soul benefits
Volunteering helps the whole person. It provides a sense of purpose. Stress hormones decrease and oxytocin and the strength of the immune system increase. Putting good into the world and helping out someone in need is revitalizing to the spirit.
- Learn valuable skills
Children and teens that volunteer learn new skill sets, how to work and interact with others, and how to manage additional responsibilities. These unique training opportunities will help them experience success during future interviews and jobs.
- Builds compassion
Extending a helping hand to others broadens our child’s perspective of the world. They come out of their bubbles and observe the lives of others who may not be as fortunate as they are – or whose misfortunes differ from theirs. Children and teens learn compassion, tolerance, and empathy.
- Learn the value of giving back
“Paying it forward” is a term many of our children are familiar with. Schools and communities are doing their part to teach our children that there is tremendous value in giving back. When your child reaches out to help another person, he or she experiences an opportunity to feel gratitude for all that they have.
I’m not going to lie to you – sometimes it’s hard to get up and get going to drive to the shelter or the food pantry or to any place you’ve committed your time. While it may take awhile to make volunteering a habit that occurs as simply as brushing your teeth everyday, I don’t know anyone who – once they get there – regrets being there. In the past, it may have been difficult to find volunteer opportunities that young children could be involved in. Today, there are organizations catering to the needs of families, teens, and children of all ages.