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Benefits of Volunteering as a Family


One of the most important things children learn through volunteering is that their time and individual effort have value.

This is an important counterweight to the materialistic messages that bombard kids today, “Money is king,” or if you do not have a _________, (fill in the blank) you will not be cool, smart, athletic, beautiful or ______ (fill in the blank.)

Having the experience of feeling valuable and a part of something is a natural confidence booster. The feeling is especially relevant if kids feel a meaningful part of something good. Volunteering as a family adds an even deeper dimension to what can be gained.

Many parents today understand the value of kids learning to become a part of a team through participation in team sports. Collaboration is a buzz-word in education these days, and the ability to collaborate is seen as a necessary 21st Century skill. Like sports, volunteerism offers opportunities to work as a part of a team and collaborate with others. Volunteering together as a family builds a sense of teamwork within a family. Unlike an athletics event where parents watch and cheer the action, volunteering as a family offers an opportunity for families to work and learn shoulder to shoulder by putting children and parents on the same team, and gives parents a way of modeling the sense of purpose and achievement to be gained through serving others. Parents who volunteer alongside their children are showing their children that they get something valuable from the effort.

In her article Laughing and Learning Together: 
What is Family Learning? Lynn Dierking writes, “… since the way humans make sense of much of their world is through group interaction, conversations, gestures, emotions, and watching others, the notion of a family learning together does make sense. The very first learning group a person belongs to is her family and this group is so important that anthropologists, sociologists and social psychologists refer to the family as an educational institution, similar to a museum or school but without the bricks and mortar.”

The holidays are a particularly relevant time to volunteer because doing so shifts focus from “getting” to “giving.” Volunteering during the holidays offers an alternative to finding ones self-esteem because of what one might or might not have materially, and it helps others during a time when they often need it the most. Many young people discover a sense of purpose through volunteer work. Perhaps you could introduce your child to something that will personally resonate by volunteering together during the holidays this year. At the very least, your family could discover the value and confidence that comes from being a meaningful part of doing something good together.

[AUTHOR: Hilary Doubleday]

November 13, 2014

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