Today I’m featuring a guest post on Volunteering by Dan Gilbert, the communications coordinator for Primrose Schools. Here it is:
Encouraging your child to volunteer is one of the best ways you can help your child grow into a compassionate, socially aware person. Making volunteering a regular part of your family’s life will make helping others a normal event in your child’s life, and set your child up for a lifetime of helping out and caring for others.
Dr. Mary Zurn, vice president of Education at Primrose Schools, suggests parents begin to guide their children in preschool , or at an early age, along a path that introduces volunteerism. “Volunteering plays an important role in the development of character. It teaches children that they can do things that positively impact the world around them,” says Dr. Zurn. Character development is an essential component of the curriculum Dr. Z has created at Primrose Schools. There are several ways to introduce volunteering to your child. Here are a few key suggestions that will make the experience of volunteering meaningful for you and your child:
Set the example. The best way to encourage positive behaviors like volunteering is to demonstrate them by volunteering your own time. When you volunteer on your own, be sure to share the experience with your children. Let them know what you did, why it was important to you and how you helped others. Be sure your child understands the reasons you choose to volunteer and why you want them to join in, so that your child can see that volunteering is not an obligation, but something a person does because something is important to him or her.
Seek out volunteer opportunities you can do as a family, or your child can do on their own, depending on your child’s age. Preschoolers and even older toddlers are at the perfect age to begin helping in the community. Your child and the rest of your family will get the most out of the experience if you choose an activity that matches your family’s interests and values. A family of animal lovers, for example, might choose to volunteer at an animal shelter. Older children should be given the opportunity to choose and seek out volunteer experiences that match what they are interested in. As long as you guide them in finding a reputable nonprofit, taking control will be a great learning experience for them.
Choosing an organization that routinely allows and encourages children to participate will help ensure your child has a positive volunteer experience. Make sure the organization knows the age of your child and can offer him or her real ways to help out. Positive volunteer experiences where the organization is welcoming and encourages your child will likely make your child want to continue volunteering. Be sure to follow up the experience with a family discussion about it. Discuss how it made you feel and why it was important and ask your child age appropriate questions to help them see the importance of volunteering.
Children need to see that volunteering is important to the family and the community, and should be encouraged to decide what is important to them and choose their own causes to give their time to. Encouraging volunteering form a young age and making volunteering something your child has control over will help your child grow into a caring, helpful adult.