Parent to Parent: Volunteering as a family

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by JULIE OGATA / PARENTMAP

KING5.com

Posted on July 16, 2012 at 10:16 AM

With the children out of school, summer might be the perfect time to try to volunteer as a family. Teaching your children to give back can be one of the most rewarding parenting moments. Julie Ogata from ParentMap explains:

WHAT DO CHILDREN LEARN WHEN THEY GIVE BACK?

Children learn so many great qualities -- first of all, they learn empathy and compassion for others. Children also learn about their community’s needs, such as feeding the less fortunate and caring for the elderly. They feel empowered, even as a child, they have skills to make a difference. Children can expand their horizons by meeting people not in their same neighborhood or school. Plus, your children will learn that as a family -- you value helping others and trying to make the world a better place.

WHAT’S A GOOD AGE TO START?

Experts say age 3 is when a child can start understanding the idea of “volunteering” and helping others. But there are many family volunteer opportunities for younger children. You can take infants or toddlers into a nursing home to visit with seniors. Young children can make cards or letters for military personnel. PCC Natural Markets lets you bring babies and young children to different food banks when they host “packing” parties and help put away food they’ve donated. In fact, there are three of those packing parties in the next 9 days, including one tonight at the Edmond’s Westgate Chapel Food Bank.

HOW CAN OLDER CHILDREN GET INVOLVED?

There are some really unique programs out there. One is the National Charity League where mothers and teenage daughters volunteer together. Washington is one of 17 states with this amazing program. Teens can also do simple things to make a difference such as help mow the lawn or weed for an elderly couple or help clean up a beach or park. They can help host a clothing or food drive.
       
HOW DO YOU INVOLVE THE WHOLE FAMILY?

The family bonding time is a big benefit to giving back. To start: 

  • Look at your families INTERESTS…is it gardening? You can plant a garden and you can donate the fresh produce to a local food bank
  • Look at your children’s ABILITIES and talents. Maybe your good at building and your child likes Legos. Helping out at Habitat For Humanity might be a good match
  • Make sure the COMMITMENT level is a good match for your family.  Is it a monthly commitment or one time opportunity
  • Make sure your child matches any AGE LIMITS with a particular charity.  You want your child to be able to participate fully and feel welcomed

ParentMap has created a list of 30 local family-friendly organizations looking for volunteers at ParentMap.com.

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