As a parent, it is important to teach your children the value of volunteering at an early age. It will teach them compassion, selflessness, and caring. One of the best ways to reinforce volunteering is to make charity functions a family activity. Find a local organization that helps others or fundraises for your community and encourage everyone in your household to participate. Children watching their parents offer their services for a worthy cause will show them first-hand how enjoyable it can be to help others. Each time your child watches you at a charitable event, it is important to explain why you are giving or donating your time and how it is important to the overall community.

One such activity our household participates in every year is at a local food kitchen on Christmas morning. Over the past 4 years, everyone in the family gives part of their Christmas working at a local church to help feed the needy and lonely. My children usually work in the food line helping to serve the individuals who attend the breakfast. Most are not poor, but have no family and are alone on the holiday. The breakfast celebration makes their holiday a little brighter, rather than spending it alone. We always talk about their experience after the church breakfast. Each year they become more aware of how their efforts make the holiday a little brighter for others.

Always show and explain to your children how proud you are of them for their contributions. Post their pictures on social media and praise their efforts. One year my son and daughter were in the local newspaper for their participation in a food pantry. Although you should not expect any praise for volunteer efforts, it was a proud moment for me to see how happy my children were when they saw themselves in the newspaper.

Most families have a full-plate of activities with work, school, sports activities, clubs, and other obligations, but making time for family volunteering projects will allow you to spend more time together and teach your children valuable lessons about their community. The first hand-experience of giving to others will create awareness and instill empathy and compassion for others in their community. Teamwork in volunteering will give your children a sense of accomplishment and pride in their service to help others in need. The following opportunities may help you enlist your children in a worthy endeavor:

• Food Pantry – Many organization participate in food pantries, such as: Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.

• Soup Kitchen – Local churches typically either participate or partner with soup kitchens.

• Holiday Meals- Many churches help feed the needy and elderly during the holidays.

• Fundraisers – These events are usually promoted through the local newspaper or social media.

What organizations are you involved in that offer opportunities to volunteer. Many churches, community organizations, and children’s groups volunteer to clean up their community, assist others with their basic needs, or fundraise for people who are in dire need medically or financially. Volunteering will not only teach your children to better understand the needs of others, but it will likely strengthen your relationships.

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