Volunteering benefits people of all ages, but can be especially beneficial to children. Studies have indicated that teenagers who volunteer are less likely to become pregnant or use drugs. In addition, in a review of 60 studies on child engagement, Child Trends found that children who participate in civic engagement programs are likely to be more involved in school, to graduate from high school and to hold more positive civic attitudes than those who do not get involved in such programs.
Getting kids to volunteer as they progress through adolescence may not be so difficult. In its 2014 analysis of volunteering trends, Child Trends found that 39 percent of twelfth grade students volunteered at least once a month in 2014 compared to just 27 percent of eighth graders.
Older students might feel compelled to volunteer to improve their college admissions applications, but parents can take steps to get their younger children excited at the prospect of volunteering.
• Set a positive example. Young children want to emulate their parents, so moms and dads who volunteer may find ready and willing partners in their children. Parents can inform their children when they volunteer and why they do so before bringing kids along to join them.
• Don't forget fun. Young children may be more likely to embrace volunteering if the activity is fun. Kids might not find it too fun to sit next to their parents while mom and dad balance a soup kitchen's books, but a beach cleanup excursion or a trip to refurbish an inner city park may inspire kids to spend a lifetime giving back to their communities and helping the less fortunate.
• Keep it simple. Kids may not enjoy volunteering activities that consume too much time or make them feel exhausted. As kids grow older, parents can encourage them to embrace more challenging activities and/or commit more time to volunteering. But keep things simple with especially young children or older children who have never before volunteered.
• Try and try again. It might take some trial and error before parents find volunteering opportunities their children truly enjoy. When volunteering with children for the first time, be careful not to commit to more than one day. If children enjoy themselves, then parents can commit more time. If kids do not seem excited by an activity, parents won't feel guilty or let the charity down by not returning.
Children can benefit greatly by volunteering, and parents can get their youngsters involved at an early age.