Families are busier than ever before. Between your career, school, and your children’s extracurricular activities, it’s hard to find time to reach out to others and volunteer. You might even find yourself thinking that volunteering doesn’t really matter to your family. Of course, volunteering helps out the individuals and organizations you serve.
But how does volunteering help you and your kids? Here are some of the big ways it can benefit your family.
Don’t want your kids to turn out spoiled and entitled? Take them to volunteer. The time your kids (and you yourself) spend volunteering will actually help increase their empathy. Learning compassion on an everyday basis can be difficult for even the best of us. Spending focused time helping others helps build compassion in a way that’s hard to replicate. Your kids will learn to relate to the people they serve. You may even find them seeing and making ways to serve others without prompting.
Beyond building empathy, volunteering helps connect you to others in your community. Volunteering will increase your social circle as you spend time with people you may not normally see. It connects you with a shared community priority and allows your entire family to make friendships.
Volunteering can actually improve both your mental and physical health. If you or someone in your family struggling with mental or emotional health issues, volunteering can help counteract stress, depression, and anxiety. As you and your children do good for others, you’ll foster a sense of accomplishment and your self-confidence will increase. Volunteering can also help increase your happiness levels as you serve and help others. You’ll find a new sense of purpose in life. In addition to these amazing mental health benefits, studies have found that volunteers have lower mortality rates than non-volunteers. Volunteering can improve chronic pain symptoms and reduce your chance for heart disease. Pretty amazing, right?
Although any time spent together in positive activities is good for your family, volunteering can bring your family time to another level. Volunteering together as a family will give your family a purpose as you serve together. Your kids will learn from your example as you share your empathy and compassion with others. It’ll give you common ground as a family and allow you to share something you’re passionate about.
While most volunteer work can be done by anyone, you and your kids will learn valuable skills and abilities through your service. Your kids will learn leadership skills that aren’t limited by age, gender, or any other social hierarchy. It’ll help your entire family learn more about teamwork and accomplishing something as a group. The leadership skills you learn will cross over into your child’s education and can strengthen their resumes and help them get into college. Learning through service helps your child develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well as organization and execution skills. In fact, volunteering has been shown to promote higher grade point averages and academic confidence.
It’s easy to think you should volunteer more as a family. It’s a lot harder to actually make it happen. Keep in mind the following:
- You don’t have to spend hours and hours. In fact, most volunteering opportunities only require an hour or two a week. You may even be able to pick and choose how and when your family helps out.
- Choose something fun. If the idea of spending hours serving soup at the soup kitchen doesn’t sound fun, choose something else. Your kids might enjoy volunteering at a local pet shelter or senior center instead. Discuss your options as a family so everyone has a say. Can’t find an option that will work for your family? Make your own service opportunities! Fundraise for a cause your family cares about with a lemonade stand or goodie bar.
- Put it on the schedule. Your family is busy. Unless you make a conscious effort to volunteer together, it probably won’t happen. Put it on the schedule and stick to it.
- Enlist help from friends and family. Host a night where you invite your family and friends to come help with a specific service opportunity. You might be surprised how much help you can get from those in your immediate social circle.
It doesn’t matter if you’re baking cookies for the local senior center, walking dogs for a sick neighbor, or helping at the food bank. Your service matters. You and your kids will benefit from any time spent serving others.