Your Parenting Info Sign Up

Little Volunteers – Big Pay Off

by Lori Sciame | February 21st, 2011 | Teens

“The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Ghandi

Instilling a love for volunteerism needs to begin very early in a child’s life. Why? Because volunteering brings huge pay offs down the road –  from leadership skill development to enhanced college applications. As the parent of three teenagers and a life-long volunteer myself, I have seen first-hand the way volunteering enriches a young person’s life.

First and foremost, volunteering teaches children to care about others. When a child truly values another person’s well-being, they learn the importance of empathy. A young person who is able to put himself or herself into “someone else’s shoes” can grow from acting strictly for the “I” to considering “we.” This can be invaluable in the development of your child’s personal relationships.

Secondly, volunteering gives a child a sense of control over the world. As you know, the world can seem like a scary place. Through volunteering, children learn that our society can be viewed as a nurturing. It is a place where those who are in need have their needs met. Youngsters will have less to worry about if they realize that their needs will always be met as well.

A third benefit of volunteering is that it teaches children leadership skills. When an elementary-aged child works alongside mom or dad as a volunteer, they see his or her parent as a leader, someone who can make a difference. As the years pass, and children are continually exposed to volunteer opportunities, they realize that they, too, are confident leaders: brave individuals who make a positive change in the community.

One of the biggest benefits of volunteering from an early age concerns preparation for college applications. Colleges not only look for good grades and high ACT/SAT test scores, but they prefer leaders, those that have contributed to their hometown in concrete ways. It may seem like college is a long way off if your child is in the second or third grade, but preparation needs to begin as early as possible. I have seen many teens who have never volunteered try to “make up for lost time” in high school only to fail because of shyness or because of lack of knowledge of volunteering opportunities.

It is easy to begin volunteering with your child if you have not already done so. Look for opportunities that are short-term in the beginning. The following are a few suggestions on how to start:

1. Walk as a family in a 5K that is raising funds for disease research.
2. Have your child make cards for nursing home residents, and then deliver the cards with your child.
3. Work with your child on a food drive for a local pantry or domestic violence shelter.
4. As a family, plant flowers around your house of worship each spring.
5. Donate gently used clothes and toys to your local Good Will or Salvation Army. Box the items and take them to the center together.

As I said earlier, I have volunteered literally dozens of times with my children. As a family we raised awareness about the issue of domestic abuse, we spread the word about the importance of organ donations, and we sent care boxes to soldiers overseas – to name just a few. In all honesty I can say that volunteering has helped to shape my kids into the smart, caring individuals that they are today.

“Volunteers are not paid — not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” Unkown

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by WasabiMedia, AK2= A.KarriemA.K. AK2= A.KarriemA.K said: RT @WasabiMedia: Why volunteering pays off at a young age, from #YourParentingInfo: http://su.pr/2C1fmw […]

Comments on Little Volunteers – Big Pay Off