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Family volunteers

Parents often aim to teach their children values such as compassion, kindness, understanding, and caring.

Volunteering can have a significant impact on the world, but also can be an excellent teaching opportunity — a great way to actively model good citizenship and community engagement for the next generation.

At the same time, while parents are helping their kids take to heart the principles of giving and making a difference, families can also have a lot of fun!

Getting buy-in from family members

Anyone in the family can initiate the conversation about volunteering together — a parent, a grandparent, a child.

If your family eats meals together, you might bring up the idea of volunteering during or just after the meal when everyone is gathered and relaxing at the table. If you share a commute with other members of the family, that might be the best time to introduce the idea.

As you discuss the idea, make sure that everyone in the family is actively participating and voicing their opinions. Similarly, as you get close to agreeing on one or more volunteer opportunities to explore (see below), be sure that everyone is happy with the outcome and excited to give the idea a try; after all, having a positive experience is important, especially for those family members who might be new to the concept of service.

Keep in mind that if your big sister is not interested in volunteering, but your father is, you might go ahead and volunteer without your sister. She may see the fun you're having and change her mind.

How much time do you have to contribute?

Just like any type of volunteering, it's important to think about your time commitment — whether you want to volunteer once (for example on Thanksgiving Day) or if you want to do something regularly.

What are your family's volunteering goals?

Once members of your family are on-board with the idea of volunteering, consider your goals.

Some reasons to volunteer together may include:

  • Having fun together
  • Making a specific difference in the community
  • Instilling an ethic of community engagement in the next generation
  • Getting to know a new community

Your goals will have an impact on the volunteer activity you choose.

For example, families looking to have fun together may choose to audition or work backstage for a community theatre production. A family hoping to get to know their community better might volunteer to organize an open house for their children's school.

What activities does your family already enjoy?

Brainstorm a list of activities your family already does together. For example, hiking, camping, gardening, folding laundry, and playing basketball.

Do any of these activities have a tie-in with community service? Yes!

  • Hiking families could volunteer to tidy a favorite hiking trail.
  • Gardening families can donate vegetables to people in need, or start a new garden plot in the yard of a low-income neighbor.
  • Basketball-playing families can volunteer to coach a kids' team after-school.
  • Folding laundry together is similar to preparing donated clothes for distribution.
  • Camping families might enjoy taking a volunteer vacation together to a national park for a week or two.

When you volunteer doing something you enjoy, you'll likely have more fun, but also experience less stress because you'll already have a sense of each person's role within the family (since you've been taking part in similar activities).

What places does your family already frequent?

Consider volunteering in a place where your family is already comfortable — the children's school, your family's place of worship, or a favorite museum or zoo.

Even the youngest child will feel more confident volunteering in a place they know and love.

And if they return often, they will be able to see the impact of their effort later on. For example if your family volunteers to paint a mural in the community center gym, your children will get to see the mural throughout their youth, each time they visit the gym.

What skills do family members have?

Particularly with younger children, considering your family's current activities can help you gauge a child's skill level.

For example if your 3 year old can sort socks, separate colors, and fold wash cloths, he has the skills to volunteer with other family members to sort clothes during a clothing drive.

If your family is bilingual, you might consider volunteering in a way that helps family members realize the amazing gift of knowing more than one language — for example helping a new immigrant family navigate the neighborhood or grocery store.

Resources

Here are some great websites, articles, and resources to help your family find the right opportunity to get involved: