5 Simple Tips to Get Kids & Teens Interested in Volunteering

Jun 28, 2018 | by The Salvation Army

When you volunteer, you make the world a better place. But volunteering doesn’t only benefit the recipient. Volunteering is good for your mind and body. It connects you to people and fosters a sense of community, responsibility, and ownership. The same is true for our youngest volunteers: “when teens or young adults volunteer, they develop self-esteem, confidence, and feelings of self-worth.”

If you would love to help your children get more involved in their community, here are some simple tips to encourage them to make a difference.

1. Be a Role Model

If you’re reading this article, chances are you have a giving heart. Do you share that aspect of your life with your children? When you lead your kids by example—whether that’s through small acts of kindness, donating hard-earned money, or volunteering—your kids will be more likely to emulate those same behaviors. Here are a few ways you can involve your kids in your activism:

  • Tell your kids about the causes you support financially.

  • Let teens join you on an age-appropriate volunteer opportunity.

  • Cultivate empathy and compassion when you encounter people in need.

  • Involve kids in small acts of kindness, such as helping someone carry out their groceries or buying coffee for the person behind you in line.

2. Find a Cause That Fits Their Passions

Think about the causes you support and what motivates you to donate or volunteer your time. Chances are, those causes are connected to your passions or interests. Does your teen love video games? There are actually gaming competitions that raise money for children in need. Is your child’s best friend a furry pet? Take your son or daughter to a local animal shelter to see if they have any volunteer opportunities.

Choosing an organization or activity that’s centered around your child’s interests will greatly improve the likelihood that they’ll find fulfillment and enjoyment from volunteering.

3. Start Small

A two-day home-building project probably isn’t the best way to get your teen excited about volunteering. Instead, start with a small commitment. For teens, this might mean one hour at a soup kitchen on a Tuesday night. For younger children, starting small might simply be picking up trash for the first 10 minutes of a beach day.

Starting small allows your children to get used to the idea of volunteering without it feeling like a burden or taking time away from other interests. As your children get more involved in volunteering, their commitments will naturally become greater.

4. Nurture Internal Motivation

External motivation can get kids and teens to volunteer once or twice (a one-on-one ice cream reward never hurt anyone!), but if you want your children to develop a deep interest in volunteering, you’ll have to nurture their internal motivation. After your kids volunteer, discuss the impact they are making and help them connect their efforts to real outcomes. For instance, if you spend a few hours sorting food at the food bank, talk about how many families will now get a healthy meal and what recipes they might make. Understanding the impact of their actions can help your kids cultivate internal motivation.

5. Get Creative

Every nonprofit has different age requirements for its volunteers. While many organizations allow children to volunteer with an adult present, there are quite a few that will not accept children. If you are disappointed with the options around you, get creative! Volunteering doesn’t have to be a formal commitment; there are tons of ways your kids and teens can serve others. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Offer to do yard work for an elderly neighbor

  • Bake dinner for a family who is going through a rough time

  • Pick up trash along your street (please supervise kids, especially if you’re near a busy street)

  • Make cards for hospital patients

  • Collect coats from friends and neighbors and donate them to a homeless shelter during winter months

We hope these tips will get your kids excited about serving others in their community. Click here for a list of ongoing volunteer opportunities at The Salvation Army Silicon Valley. Please note that some positions are adult-only.

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