It happens every year: After the first few weeks of joy and excitement about the wonders of summer pass and boredom sets in. This season, keep your child active and engaged by encouraging volunteerism.
When searching for the right organization for your child to work with, keep his or her interests in mind and try not to force your own. An enjoyable experience will be more valuable than one where your child may feel uncomfortable or disinterested.
Here are some ideas to get started:
• Organize a food drive. Many communities have local food pantries to help families who are in a tight spot. Have your preteen organize a neighborhood food drive to collect donations of nonperishable food items.
• Visit nursing homes. Your child may want to prepare cards or small crafts that can be distributed to patients, learn songs to sing, read aloud, or play games with residents. Work with the organization to plan special events for the residents.
• Find an animal shelter. Kids may be able to help with cleaning, feeding or walking the rescued animals.
• Look into Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity has helped build more than 500,000 homes for families in need worldwide. Children can help raise money for a home in their area by planning fund-raisers. They can also do small tasks around the construction site, such as building flower boxes or helping to clean up. For more information, visit habitat.org/youthprograms.
Volunteering is a great way to build relationships, develop skills and help those in need. Studies show that those who volunteer have increased self-confidence and gain interpersonal and communication skills that can be useful in the workplace later on.
Always contact an organization before your child hopes to begin volunteering to find out any requirements that must be fulfilled in advance. For instance, many nursing homes require tuberculosis tests. Some organizations ask for references or background checks. Make sure your child is the appropriate age for the environment, as well.
For more information, search “volunteer” above.
Reviewed by Lanette Brown-Jones, M.D., adolescent medicine, Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent.