Community service teaches soft skills such as empathy, kindness, and selflessness. It can also help your children develop valuable hard skills. These days, there’s a lot of bad news circling and it’s easy to feel helpless. Volunteering can empower your children with confidence and show them that no matter the size of their efforts, they can still make an impact.
Don’t wait for community service to become a requirement at your child’s school to get started. With school out for the summer, now is the perfect time to educate your children about the value of community service and start giving back as a family.
Why teach about community service?
Your children should feel connected to the community they inhabit. One of the best ways to foster that connection is through service that benefits the community. By working together to solve problems in their hometown, your children will feel empowered to do more.
Giving back is also a great way to instill a feeling of responsible citizenship. While you can talk about having empathy and being kind with children, one of the best ways to teach about these soft skills is through experience.
In our busy lives, it can be difficult to find the time to slow down and connect with your loved ones. Planning community service activities provides the perfect platform to spend quality time together while making an impact in your community. Your community service efforts don’t need to be restricted to holidays or certain times of the year. Consider implementing monthly service efforts.
Give your kids a choice.
Take time as a family to learn about different issues that impact your community and explore the causes that you can support together. The United Nations has compiled a list of sustainable development goals you can use as a point of reference when considering different causes to support. Work with your child to select a service opportunity that aligns with their interests and helps the community.
A few different causes to discuss include:
- Arts & Culture
- Human Rights
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and allies (LGBTQ+)
- Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), Latinx
As your children get older, you can allow more room for strategic problem-solving. Instead of looking at community efforts you can support, explore problems your child has identified in their community and their ideas for solving the problem. Help them brainstorm a solution and work together to make it a reality.
Make service time family time.
Your acts of service shouldn’t be about documenting your day for Instagram or posting the latest viral Facebook video. Instead, put the phone away and use this opportunity to connect with your children. It can be disrespectful to the people you’re supporting to take their photo without permission, and your efforts should be about making an impact, not gaining clout and likes on social media.
Depending on the activity, encourage conversations while you’re giving back. You can discuss the impact you’re having, the reasons behind your efforts today, and other observations.
Celebrate your impact.
Don’t focus on the man-hours involved in giving back. Instead, highlight the impact you and your family have through your efforts. This is a great way to inspire your children to not only do more, but also identify opportunities that can have an even larger impact on the causes that matter most to them.
Get started with a few family-friendly ideas.
Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas you can discuss with your family to get started!
- Pick up litter at a nearby park or beach. Remember to use gloves and to have adults handle any glass.
- Build care packages with toiletries and healthy snacks to hand out to homeless people in your community.
- Go through toys and clothes and donate to an organization in need.
- Write cards to people in assisted living facilities, the hospital, or deployed overseas.
- Spend time helping animals in shelters.
Give back to your community.
Giving back to your community together is a great way to connect with your children and instill invaluable life lessons. In addition to giving back with your time, you can make an enormous difference when you make a monetary donation to the organizations you care most about.
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Cover photo: Youth Spirit Artworks
Youth Spirit Artworks is a nonprofit organization located in Berkeley that empowers homeless and low-income youth through our arts workshops and job skill-building programs. YSA recently opened the Tiny House Empowerment Village, the first village of tiny houses for homeless youth in the nation, a project that was developed and spearheaded by the youth in YSA's programs.
The picture displayed shows some of our youth leaders cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony. YSA has ongoing volunteer opportunities. Reach out to Jilly de la Torre to learn more.
First and second photos: back2earth
back2earth is a youth-led movement to grow gardens, not landfills. back2earth focuses on educating young adults about the importance of reducing excess waste and recently surpassed 1,500 students educated on the value of composting.back2earth is aiming to launch their academy bringing their education to students on a much wider scale. If you’re interested in getting involved or becoming an ambassador, contact back2earth.