Ways to Encourage a Service Attitude in Children

The following post is courtesy of Nancy Parker who blogs at http://www.enannysource.com/blog/

kidsandcharityWe all hope our children will grow up to be the kind of adults that reach out a helping hand to those less fortunate. However, a service attitude doesn’t just happen; it has to be given ample chances to take root and grow strong.

Parents can have a profound impact on nurturing that attitude in their children. Here are a few ways you can help your child develop a service attitude that will stay with them throughout their lifetime.

Model a giving heart. Children learn best by watching those they love and respect. If you want your child to truly value helping others, show him that’s it’s important to you through your own words and actions. Find a cause that you’re passionate about and get involved in whatever way you can. It doesn’t always have to be a hands-on project; there are many support jobs that make the direct work possible. Maybe your cause is best served by working on the fundraising committee, or folding and mailing out newsletters, or managing the volunteers. Whatever you do, talk about it with your child and involve him whenever possible. Let him know how your actions help others and share the benefits you get by being part of the project.

Promote the idea that one person can make a difference. Many people today are pessimistic about the impact that one person can have. But the belief that one person who gives from the heart can make a real difference in the world is at the heart of the service attitude. Instill and nurture the belief that your child can make the world a better place. Seek out news stories that spotlight people, especially children, who have taken positive actions around an idea they believe in. Read books where the hero is kind and loving towards others. Celebrate small victories and acknowledge that every big victory started with one step. Focus on what you can accomplish rather than what you can’t. Starting a compost project in your neighborhood won’t stop global warming, but it will contribute to a sustainable community. Working a shift at a homeless shelter won’t end homelessness, but it will help local people get a night’s sleep away from the cold and rain. Empower your child to see and embrace the possibilities.

Give your child the opportunity to get involved in a real way. We often don’t let young children participate in volunteer projects because we want to protect them from the harsh realities of the world. However, most children are able to handle much more than we think they can. Children are able to see past the problems and connect with the people affected. There are many volunteer opportunities that welcome children and help parents explain the issue in age appropriate ways. You and your child can volunteer to serve meals at a homeless shelter, visit isolated seniors in a nursing home, collect winter coats for foster children, or work a shift at a pet adoption day. What you do isn’t important. Taking the time to volunteer on a regular basis is what counts.

Encourage giving with everyday actions. While volunteer projects are a great way to introduce your child to helping others, a true service attitude is something that’s present every day. Get in the habit of joining with your child to think of ways you can help others in your everyday world. Carry a supply of water bottles and granola bars in your car and hand them out to the homeless people standing on street corners. Purge the play room and closets on a regular basis and donate the toys and clothes that aren’t being used. Pick up trash off the sidewalk and put it in the street side trash can. Give up your seat on the train to an elderly person. Return a shopping cart to the store front for a mom with young kids. Ask a child who’s sitting on the sidelines if he’d like to join in the game. There are endless opportunities throughout the day for both you and your child to help others.

Start a gratitude habit. Studies show that people who are grateful for what they have, whatever that may be, are more likely to be happy in their lives. Being grateful also helps you feel good about what you have when others around you have less, so you should consider starting a gratitude habit with your child. Talk at breakfast about what you’re looking forward to, share at dinner what things happened during the day you’re grateful for, or end the night with saying thank you.

No matter how young your child is, take the time to nurture his service attitude. It’s a passion that will stay with him for a lifetime.



Volunteering With the Elderly: How Your Child Could Benefit From This Experience

volunteering with the elderlyOur post about volunteering with the elderly is by Amy Shoemaker, an author who writes about nursing homes and the importance of volunteering. Her website focuses on nursing home abuse and how the general public can stop this phenomenon.

Volunteering is always a great activity your family can do together to become closer, learn, and take on new experiences.

When you get your children interested in volunteering at a young age, they will be able to learn more and they will have the drive to volunteer on their own in the future. Inspiring your child to volunteer will start in your home. If your children see that you are excited about volunteering, they will be more likely to follow your example. As parents, it is our responsibility to get them started so that they will continue to be charitable throughout their lives.

Getting your children involved doesn’t have to be difficult. You don’t need to go on a month long mission trip to South America to volunteer. Start with a weekly trip to your local nursing home. Your child’s smile could make someone’s day, and they will learn a lot more during their visits than you could imagine.

Involvement is the key to keeping children interested, and helping the elderly will do just that. Depending on the age of your children and the capabilities of the elderly you visit, there can be a wide variety of activities your family can do when volunteering.

Some of the people you visit may like gardening, but they have difficulty bending over to do some of the tasks gardening requires. By helping them, your children could learn about working hard to reach a goal and healthy eating as well. Maybe your child has just started to learn to read. You could have them read to many people at once, or one person in the nursing home could sit down with them and help them learn. The possibilities are truly endless, and you can use your child’s strengths to help them stay interested in the project and improve on their skills in the process.

Your children could especially help those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Combining children and these elderly people will not only benefit the children, but the elderly as well. Research has shown that these elderly people become more interested in others, get more exercise, fall less, and feel happier and more loved after spending time with children. Their loved ones have said that they seem more engaged and less isolated. This same research showed that these children will usually have higher social development scores, fewer behavioral problems, and enhanced perceptions of older adults. Also, children who have been involved in programs with the elderly have been proven to have a better vocabulary as well as better reading skills.

You may think that you won’t have time to share these wonderful experiences with your children. When you work long hours or have many other commitments that are keeping you from volunteering, it may seem impossible to take on another task.

However, you need to remember how important your time will be for those you are helping and for your children’s future. With just a little bit of your time, you will be able to show your children how important volunteering is to the community, and you will leave each visit feeling more fulfilled.

Volunteering helps create new friendships, and it will also help you feel a purpose in your life. Your children will learn these skills while they are volunteering as well, and the experiences they have will affect the rest of their lives.


Volunteering…Compassion Building in Children

The following article is reprinted with the permission of Kelly Palmatier as it appears with the title of Volunteering with Children on the site, compassionatekids.com

Volunteering with children is a great way to help them learn about giving back. Children learn valuable skills while “on the job.” Home schooled students, who may have more time available for volunteering, could also enjoy the additional socialization opportunities presented through volunteering. Another benefit of volunteering is children learn about the concerns of the organization and what need it fills in the community. Consequently, the children also have an opportunity to remember what they have to be thankful for.

Work Together

It’s important to work side-by-side when volunteering with your child, since leading by example has been shown to be the most effective form of teaching. Children who see their parents volunteering are much more likely to believe in the value of working to help others.

Naturally, working side-by-side with your child will allow you to assist him/her when necessary, ensuring the child’s presence is a help, not a hindrance to the organization’s staff and other volunteers.

An additional benefit of working with your child as a volunteer is the bonding that occurs when people work together as a team. Also, when people are focused on a task, it sometimes fosters deep conversations that may not have occurred with more direct eye contact.

Consider the Right Opportunity

When choosing a volunteering opportunity, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Your Child’s Interests
  • Your Interests
  • Your Child’s Abilities
  • Your Abilities
  • Location, Frequency, & Duration
  • Staff Attitude

Your Child’s Interests

If your child is clearly interested in a subject, it may be possible to use that interest as a springboard into volunteering: Children who construct a lot of forts or buildings with blocks may enjoy helping out a construction organization such as Habitat for Humanity; children who love animals my enjoy volunteering with animal organizations such as the Humane Society.

Your Interests

It’s also important to consider your own interests. Children look to their parents to help them discern how to respond to new stimuli. If you are bored while volunteering, your child will associate boredom with volunteering. Alternately, if you are passionate about your actions, your child will respond to that passion.

Your Child’s Abilities

If your child is very young, it can be challenging to choose a volunteering opportunity that he/she can actually help with. Fortunately, there are opportunities available that even very young children can do with a little parental guidance.

I started volunteering with my children when they were three and six years old. My older child could follow basic directions well with a small amount of supervision. However, my three-year-old was an energetic little boy with a young child’s motor skills and attention span.

We were able to be successful volunteering at a local food pantry, where his sorting and counting skills worked quite well with close supervision and direction from me. I gave simple tasks such as taking two boxes of macaroni & cheese from a shelf and putting them in each grocery bag. He was able to complete these tasks easily, while I added all the remaining groceries.

Your Abilities

Just as your child will learn from your passion for volunteering, he/she will benefit from seeing you work well in your element. For example, if you are especially skilled at home renovations, you may find a community restoration project to work on. This would allow you to share your skills while demonstrating the relevance volunteering has to many different careers and interests.

Location, Frequency, & Duration

Of course, it’s important to consider the basic logistics of any volunteering opportunity. If the opportunity is close by, a commitment to help out on a weekly basis may be fine. If it’s farther away, you may need to commit to helping on a monthly basis instead. It’s fine to increase your volunteering later, after you’ve tried it out and you know it works well for you, but be careful not to over-commit initially. Remember your child is already learning work ethics from this experience. You’ll want to ensure you arrive in a timely manner when you’re expected, only canceling or rescheduling when you truly have valid reasons and can give plenty of notice.

Consider, too, the duration of each volunteer session. Older children may be fine with a few hours or more. However, younger children may need sessions to be kept short.

We found our one-hour volunteer session at the food pantry each week worked well during the first 30 to 45 minutes of fast-paced grocery bag-filling. However, the remaining 15 to 30 minutes of shelf-restocking were slow-paced enough that the three-year-old had trouble staying focused. It was an invitation for chaos. We handled it by simply leaving earlier until he was a little older and better-able to handle a full hour of volunteer work at a time.

Staff Attitude

The last item to consider is the attitude of other volunteers and the organization’s staff. Most people will appreciate your instilling a volunteer ethic in children at a young age, but you may find a few “sour apples” who focus more on the decibel level or other potential distractions. (In fact, many organizations may prohibit children under a certain age.)

To some extent, the mission you’re on is more important than any individuals who may not appreciate your child’s input. However, be sure to consider the effect others’ attitudes have on your child. If a child feels like a hindrance, volunteering will end up seeming like a chore rather than a joy.

Resources for Finding Volunteer Opportunities

There are many ways you can learn about volunteering opportunities, including the following:

  • Check with Keep America Beautiful or other local organizations for community clean-up days.
  • Consider raising vegetables or starting a canned food drive for your local food pantry.
  • Check with local nursing homes for “toddler days.”
  • Take on home baking projects for fundraising bake sales or meal delivery services.
  • Ask your local Chamber of Commerce for information about local organizations that may have volunteer opportunities.
  • Call non-profit organizations you like and ask what you can do. They may have needs/volunteer opportunities that you haven’t even thought of.
  • Check for opportunities listed in national volunteer website databases such as VolunteerMatch.org (has a designation for kid-friendly opportunities) or Idealist.org (has designations for teen opportunities and under-age-12 opportunities).

As with most parental/educational pursuits, there are many factors to consider regarding volunteering with children, but a little effort can provide a lifetime of benefit for both the kids involved and for society.


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