Finding time to volunteer with your kids is so important. Doing good for others is the ultimate form of gratitude and kindness. It is the quickest way for your children to develop empathy. And, it is an incredibly impactful way for your child to learn about the world around them. But, the word "volunteer" scares most parents. Why? Well, time of course.
As kids get older, the pressures of school and their social peer group get higher. Fitting in time to volunteer beyond the minimum that's required by the school feels next to impossible.
Parents are rushing home from work. Kids are completing mountains of homework, keeping up with their friends, and shuttling around to activity after activity.
And, for younger kids, parents are exhausted from the physicality and lack of sleep from having younger kids. Not to mention that volunteering opens the door to some tough conversations that many parents aren't ready to have with their kids. Hunger. Sickness. Poverty. War.
Tired, exhausted parents. Busy, social kids. Or, young kids.
Volunteering feels like the thing families can put off for now.
Except we can't. Practicing gratitude and kindness for others has been shown to reduce bullying behaviors, increase empathy, increase self-confidence, and make you and your kids happier.
At a time when teen suicides are soaring and social safety nets are disappearing, there has never been a better time, dare I say it - a more urgent time, to make doing good for others a priority.
But, how do you find the time? I have three boys. Right now, they are young. The dynamics of three boys (oh, the farting sounds are abundant here), their natural need to be physical, and their individual social and activity needs are all exhausting. There are rare nights I get to sleep all night without interruption. I rarely get through a day of work without something coming up. We are gone most nights of the week until PAST our dinner time of 6 PM.
I'm with you, parents. The struggle is real.
And, yet, my kids and I find time to take positive action in service to other humans at least once a month.
Here's my secret:
Small chunks of time: I've given up on day long service projects that I originally envisioned. Right now, I try to find 20 minutes once a week. Yes, 20 minutes once or twice a week where we can take positive action in service of others. More often than not, one project will take us about a month to get through at this rate. But, we do it in small, meaningful chunks.
Be Present! Since we do it in small chunks that are spread out over a longer period of time, I make sure that we do this work when I can be fully present. When I can put my phone, my work, and anything else aside and just focus on being with my kids in this moment. I want to connect with them and show them it's important.
Take action at home. My kids are young and it's extraordinarily hard to find service projects that they can safely and appropriately participate in. There are so many ways for your kids to help others right from your own home. Placemats for senior citizens, homemade dog toys for shelter animals, a bake sale to raise money for a cause. You never have to leave home to do it.
Digestable activities. The activities you choose to do with your young kids at home in these small chunks of time should be things that are age appropriate and they can understand.
Use storytelling and books as a tool. For all kids, providing books on the topic you are covering is such a great tool to expose them to all different kinds of people. I've seen chapter books for older kids and incredible story books for the younger set. I always use books to help my kids understand and develop empathy for others. The best part? You can incorporate this into your nightly, bedtime reading with your kids.
Making the time each week to take on teaching kindness and gratitude to your kids by doing good for others will pay you back in spades, I promise. I have seen my kids begin to automatically start thinking how they can help others. And, they are learning that even though they are young, they can make a difference in the lives of others.
What's even more rewarding for this mama is that my once extremely reticent son has started to really get in to the activities we do at home. What was once a long, drawn out argument that usually ended in yelling and threats (yep - I succumb to that too) is now a fun, meaningful activity we do together.
This blog post addresses how you find time, but does not cover what to do with your kids. I have two additional resources for you to consider. The first is the 2020 Do Good Calendar. This calendar honors a different group in your community each month and provides inspiration on how to serve this group in an easy DIY, at home project.
The second is my Do Good Monthly Digital Subscription. The 2020 Do Good Calendar is included in this subscription (if purchased annually) and provides further support with book recommendations, guidance on how to talk about a topic with your kids, learning and activity worksheets, and more. If you not only want ideas, but details on how to do it with your kids…grab this subscription!
Tell me, what types of positive action do you take with your kids at home? I'd love to hear more!