Volunteering as a Family: Finding Ways to Give Back
Raising caring, giving children is an important goal for any parent. But even for those with the best intentions, busy schedules and the work/life juggle can make it hard to find the time to identify and involve your family in volunteer opportunities. Our bloggers understand this challenge – they experience it too! Today, a few of our writers are sharing tips for teaching kids about social responsibility, ideas for volunteering, and some simple ways to give back as a family.
Tips for Teaching Kids to Give Back
Media Mom: We’ve come to realize the best way to get involved is to be realistic about what we can and cannot do as a family. There are a ton of opportunities to give back and get involved through our children’s schools and after-school program and we support those and volunteer at them enthusiastically (this is in addition to volunteering at the school itself, which I really do to stay connected and aware of what’s going on at school rather than as a community service). Outside of school, we try to pick a couple of causes and make them an annual family tradition. We’ve done the Mito Action walk in Boston in honor of my friend’s daughter for several years now. It’s great because it’s a family-oriented event, it has a real connection for us, and there are many people with Mito there. It gives the kids a great understanding of why we’re doing what we’re doing. At Christmas time we do Operation Santa, where you shop for holiday gifts for specific children in need. We try to pick letters from children who have a similar profile to our own kids, and then we let our kids take the lead in shopping for them.
Ruth: I recently joined a community group that organizes a different volunteer opportunity every month. I love the energy, variety, and friendships the group provides. I’m thinking it would be fun to do the same thing with school children. A monthly playgroup with a heartfelt purpose sounds like a great reason to get together.
Kris-Ann: I really just try to teach my boys kindness. It’s important for them to know that people are different and that’s ok. People make their own choices and that’s ok.
Amy: We do a pretty good job of participating in small “giving back” projects over the course of the year (like this one where Olivia made loom bracelets for Children’s Hospital). But I would like to do more active volunteering as a family or even as a mother-daughter activity. I recently met a mom whose family volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and spends vacations building homes in underdeveloped areas. It impressed me how they were able to sacrifice precious vacation time to work hard. Maybe one day we’ll do the same.
Bridget: Participating in fundraising walks is always a good thing for families. You can do as much or as little as your family can do and they are usually on weekends, which is a major plus for working parents. If you’re a parent who invites the whole class to birthday parties, from the beginning – before your kids know any better – try to make friend parties ones where the kids don’t bring gifts and instead donate to a charity. It becomes so excessive with the gifts after awhile. My 10-year-old is on board with this now and I’m trying to get my 6-year-old to buy in. We get them presents. They get presents from family members. They just don’t need so much stuff! I have found if they get to choose the charity, they will feel good about it. Last year, my daughter raised $270 at her birthday and the organization that she donated to wrote about her in their newsletter. She loved it!
Heather: My daughter made a huge bag of dog toys that we took to the animal shelter. Luckily, we dropped off the toys and resisted the urge to bring home a puppy! We have also been making cards and sending notes to family and friends far away after reading and crafting with our Crafts With Kindness box.
We’d love to hear ideas from you! How do you involve your family in giving back? Share your tips for family volunteering with our team.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in 2014 and has since been updated.