Extracurricular Extras: What Kids Learn From Community Service
Community service literally develops a sense of community, especially for young people who may not often see how the other half lives.
Helping others — volunteering in a soup kitchen, stocking shelves at a food bank, tutoring at a school, building houses for those in need — is an opportunity to see how others live and to appreciate how much you do have. Kids learn that any differences they have pale in comparison with all they have in common.
To maximize your young volunteer's learning:
Take the show on the road: Help her expand her good works to other communities. Spread the word by email, your town's Web site, or the local newspaper.
Learn how to promote a cause: Encourage him to start a blog or a self-published newsletter describing his volunteer activities and how others can help.
- Expand the scope: If she's thirsty to do more, your child can ask the organization she works with if they have a sister organization that could also use your help.
Notes for the Uninterested
Community service fosters compassion, and helps create a more caring individual. The best kind of "doing good" comes from the heart, but if your child is a reluctant volunteer (or just trying to meet a school requirement), a little jumpstart from you can put her in a position to see and feel the benefits of helping others. Here are some ways to encourage with a child who says she's "not interested" in community service:
Try scouting: The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Brigade, 4-H, and similar groups focus on helping others along with kid-appealing activities such as sports, crafts, and camping. Your child may find a fit here.
Be a role model. If your child is not inclined to volunteer for community service, volunteer yourself. The things you do create a far more lasting impression on your children than anything you say.
- Volunteer as a family. Many organizations offer special projects meant to be performed by families. Your child will have the chance to meet other kids her age and feel a sense of accomplishment.