Inspire a Life-Long Giver by Volunteering Together as a Family

November 13th is World Kindness Day – a day to stop looking at what separates us and instead change a life by an act of random kindness.   A fantastic idea – but why settle for a once a year official day of kindness?  Why not strive to incorporate giving and community service into your family’s every day schedule. Yes, it can sometimes be difficult to find the time in our hectic lives – but the rewards for your family, and those you are helping, can be priceless.  Here are a few tips to get started:

  1. Learn about Kid-Role Models:  Go to the library and do some research. Learn about children who have persevered despite adversity, like Anne Frank or Rosa Parks; read about children who have made a difference, including Alexandra Scott, who founded Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which raises money for pediatric cancer.  Get inspired.  If young children can see that all it takes is an idea and determination to make a difference - especially by their peers - they will get excited to start.

  2. Make a List – Compile a list of your family’s interests and talents.  Are you animal lovers?  Do you love to read books?  Do you sing or dance?  Do you love to draw?  A comprehensive list of your collective interests will help your family clarify what sort of organization you want to help, and will give you ideas on how you can help.

  3. Think Small – Remind children they don’t need to change the world to make a big impact. Look around your own neighborhood…are their elderly neighbors who don’t often get out?  Why not bake them some cookies and visit with them for an hour.  Maybe there’s a local food bank - make a flier and put in your friend’s mailbox and ask them to leave donations outside on their front steps on a certain date.  Even reading to a neighbor’s young child so the mom can prepare dinner hassle free is an act of kindness and can make a difference.

  4. Make it a Family Activity – Parents who don’t volunteer are probably not going to have kids who volunteer.  Model volunteerism and kindness, even if it’s helping at your local school, or buying  a box or two of girl scout cookies (of course who can decline Thin Mints!).  Explain why you are giving your time or money.

  5. Take a Family Field Trip – Learning about kindness and volunteering doesn’t always have to actually be doing the work – showing kids about what needs to be done can be equally powerful and make a huge impact.  If they love animals, go to the zoo and focus on endangered animals; if they are concerned about the environment, visit a local nature center.

  6. Let the Kids Take the Lead – Allowing kids to be in charge will foster desire and determination. If they want to hold a fundraiser or other group charity activity, let them organize and plan the event – it doesn’t matter how professional the “marketing” is, nor does it matter how much money they make.  Let them pick a charity of their choice and hold a walkathon with a few friends or host a heart drawing party so the local nursing home can be decorated for Valentines Day.   The lessons they learn will last a lifetime, and foster a passion for giving.

  7. Create On-The-Go Care Packages – Fill small bags with non-perishable items, such as granola bars, peanut butter crackers, and water, then add in a few clothing essentials including a pair of winter gloves, a pair of sunglasses, shirt or a baseball hat, and store in the car.  If you are out and about and see a person in need, present them with the bag, with a smile and ‘Have a Nice Day’.  Small gestures can make a huge difference.

  8. Additional Volunteer Resources – Keep America Beautiful  (community cleanup days); local nursing homes (arts and crafts and reading); (variety of opportunities for different ages); local schools (homework help); local food banks (stocking pantries, serving meals); (breaks volunteer ideas into interest).
Written by Jenny Tananbaum, Suburban Mom