Aside from looking good on college applications, how is volunteering good for my child?
Even if colleges took no notice of volunteer activities, contributing one's time has powerful benefits for young people, allowing them to gain a better sense of their place in the world.
For example, volunteering:
—Creates a hands-on way to learn the values of compassion, tolerance, community responsibility and good citizenship.
—Promotes healthy lifestyle choices. Studies show that children who volunteer just one hour per week are less likely than other kids to get involved in destructive behaviors, such as smoking or abusing drugs and alcohol. They also are more likely to do well in school, graduate, vote and be philanthropic.
—Provides an antidote to our culture's messages of competition, self-absorption and materialism.
—Enables kids to feel valued, to acquire new skills and to gain a more realistic view of the workplace.
—Provides the opportunity to interact with culturally and economically diverse people.
—Cultivates a lifelong commitment to service and justice. According to one report, adults who volunteered as children were two times more likely to engage in community service than adults who didn't.
Studies also indicate that when children practice caring through volunteer work, they become more mindful of other people's needs, feel empowered to make a difference and are more helpful in other areas of their lives.
Your child may appreciate your volunteering together. In fact, have the entire family join in. Parents report that volunteering with their children sparks meaningful conversations about issues that matter and draws families closer. It also increases children's appreciation and respect for their parents (and siblings) as they see them caring for their community.
Finally, volunteering is fun. Whether volunteering alone, with friends or with family members, the enjoyment your child will find in serving others may be your best reason for encouraging a pursuit of service opportunities.