When you’re watching the news, do you see people volunteering after a hurricane or other natural disasters? Recall the times when you have encountered homeless people or visited an animal shelter and wished you could bring a pet home—if your child wants to help people or animals, you could encourage them to volunteer, said KidsHealth, a physician-reviewed website on children’s health and parenting issues. Volunteering entails spending some of your free time to help people, animals, the environment, or any other cause your family cares about.
Motivations and Benefits of Student Volunteering (2010)
Ram A. Cnaan and colleagues of Penn Libraries, which serve the teaching, research and learning needs of scholars, used data from a survey of over 4,000 university students who were surveyed in five countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US. They found that the volunteering rate was 73% for all countries. With regard to the frequency of volunteering, 35.6% volunteered regularly while 64.4% had done so occasionally.
As for the students’ preferred area of volunteering, 48.2% volunteered as a mentor, tutor, coach, or counselor (youth). 42.7% volunteered in sport or cultural activities, 39.4% did so in university clubs or organizations, and 37.5% did so in health and emergency services. 32.6% volunteered in community activities (ex: conservation and animal welfare), 32% volunteered in religious organizations, and 14.3% did so in activist groups or in a neighborhood.
61.5% of regular volunteers chose to volunteer because it was something they can put on their CVs when applying for a job (versus 65.1% of occasional volunteers and 70.6% of non-volunteers). 58.2% volunteered because they want to get a foot in the door for paid employment (versus 57.6% and 60.7%).
90.2% of regular volunteers chose to volunteer because it is important to help others (versus 85.7% and 79.2%). 87.8% of them did so because they want to work for a cause that is important (versus 84% and 78.3%). 53.4% of regular volunteers did volunteering work to make new friends (versus 50.2% and 51.1%).
28.5% of them volunteered because it relieves some of the guilt over being more fortunate than others (versus 33.9% and 36%). 29.1% of regular volunteers did so because it was advised by a career advisor or family member (versus 30.5% and 35.5%). 32% of regular volunteers participated in volunteering work because it’s a good escape from one’s troubles (versus 31.5% and 31.1%).
With regard to benefits, 47.4% of regular volunteers cited service requirement (versus 53.2% and 55.8%) and leadership skills (83.8% of regular volunteers versus 72.7% and 65.3%) as one of the benefits of volunteering.
85.9% of regular volunteers believed that another benefit of volunteering is self-satisfaction (versus 80.1% and 77.4%), as well as recognition from colleagues/friends (43% of regular volunteers versus 41.6% and 46.5%). Cnaan and colleagues concluded that university students volunteer, though they prefer to do so occasionally. Students volunteer within their university and in their community, the authors wrote. Future researchers, policymakers, and educators should recognize and assess internal and external volunteering contributions, they added.
How Can I Get My Child to Volunteer?
1. Be A Good Role Model
Your child will likely follow you, so if you want to instill the value of volunteerism, be sure that you are a volunteer yourself, noted Laura Lewis Brown of PBS, an American public broadcaster and television program distributor. When you or a guardian is involved, your child will look forward to volunteering for a cause, allowing to spend more quality time with your little one.
2. Find Something Fun and Easy
Volunteering doesn’t have to be a drag. Be sure to find something that interests your child or your family. "Look for something that really fits you and your personality, and matches your family's dynamics,” recommended Tanisha Smith, the national director of volunteer services for Volunteers of America. If your child loves animals, consider finding an animal shelter or a wildlife rescue that needs towels or food donations. You can also find an animal rescue where volunteers are encouraged to take the dogs for a walk. If not, you can also consider offering to walk your neighbor’s dogs. That’s still volunteerism!
Of course, volunteering doesn’t have to take a whole day to complete. For instance, you can get a gift for a toy drive or Adopt a Family program when you are purchasing a gift for another person. If you want to donate toys, ask your child if there are toys they don’t use anymore. They may be reluctant at first, but your child will get excited about the idea of helping another child who doesn’t own the same toys as them.
3. Create Volunteering Opportunities
It’s time to think outside the box. For example, you can help your child make and sell products, and the profit will go to charity. You can also collect or earn money from charity or even establish your own charity group. The objective is to go beyond traditional volunteering opportunities.
Other opportunities include taking your child on a field trip to expose them to various social issues such as homelessness, animal rescue, and environmental issues, suggested Dr. Amy D’Unger, chair of the Board of Directors for Compassionate Kids, Inc.
It doesn’t have to be scary, but you can help your child gain a new perspective by finding ways to assist those of the less fortunate, explained Rhett Power of magazine INC. "Working shoulder-to-shoulder with your kids can foster conversations about their lives and experiences and provide a window into their worlds,” D’Unger explained.
4. See the Impact of Volunteering
Not only does volunteering foster and strengthen the parent-child bond, but it can also make your child feel good about what they have done. For some kids, a simple smile or “thank you” is enough to brighten up their day. “A project doesn't need to be on a grand scale to impact those intended to benefit from it or those who are participating," stated D’Unger. After volunteering, consider asking your child about their volunteer experience to help them process what they have learned and to reinforce the positive message behind volunteerism.
Volunteering helps children open their eyes to the realities of the world, teaching them that life is not about memes. Parents should be role models if they want to instill the spirit of volunteerism in their kids.