Do you ever think of volunteering with your kids as a little like eating broccoli? It’s something you know you should do, but you can’t get excited about it?
Sure, you’ve heard about the benefits:
Volunteering can teach your children how to be compassionate for others and caring of the world around them. While helping out they can learn new skills, gain self-confidence and learn about people with different backgrounds and beliefs.
Yet when you think about signing up, all you may be able to focus on are the obstacles. Fortunately, overcoming those barriers is a lot easier than learning to love broccoli. Here are several common objections to volunteering along with ways to rise above them.
“We’ll volunteer eventually, but my children are too young now.”
It’s true that many organizations have age restrictions about who is allowed to volunteer. But you may be able to work on a project that doesn’t involve showing up onsite. For instance, if your kids really love animals but they are too young to volunteer at a shelter, your family may be able to organize a blanket or towel drive, collect dog food, or make cat toys. The bonus is that when you deliver your goods, you’ll probably be able to spend a little quality time playing with the animals you’re helping.
“There are so many good causes, there’s no way we can decide on one to get our help.”
Think about your interests to help you decide where to give your time. Many non-profit service organizations can be broken down into three broad categories: human welfare, environmental welfare or animal welfare. Once you define your broad category, think about what your family members like to do. For instance, if you all like being outdoors, you can work at a community garden for a local food bank to benefit human welfare. You can help clean up litter from local beaches or riverbanks to help the environment. Or you may want to participate in a backyard bird count or help restore a wild habitat to contribute to animal welfare.
“I can’t even get my kids to help out around the house, there’s no way I can get them to volunteer to work somewhere else.”
The key is to make volunteering more like fun than work, which it can be. And you need to get buy-in from everyone involved. If you present a volunteer opportunity to your kids as something they will do whether they “like it or not,” you’ll almost certainly get resistance. But if you ask their opinions and give them a voice in choosing a cause to work for or a project to help out on, you may be surprised at the enthusiasm they show.
“My kids already spend time on service projects through their Scout troops, there’s no need to spend more time volunteering.”
It’s true that service organizations of many types help kids learn the pleasures of giving their time. But there’s also an advantage to be gained from working together as a family. You get to see your kids succeed at tasks they may not normally do, and you may also find out about issues that are important to them. And it’s not bad that your children get to watch you commit your time and energy to something you believe is important. Another bonus: the possibility of meeting other families who believe in the same causes you do.
Once you break the volunteer barrier, don’t be surprised if you find yourself adding a regular project to your family’s calendar. There’s something about helping an organization or contributing to an issue you care about that’s good for you. Just like broccoli, only better.
Cindy Hudson has volunteered as part of Girl Scout troops, school groups, mother-daughter book clubs, and with her family and friends. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two daughters. Visit her online at www.MotherDaughterBookClub.com.