Strong communities are built by strong people who recognize the importance of giving back. Children recognize when their parents give back to their communities, and often that recognition compels youngsters to want to do the same.
Volunteering as a family is a great way for parents to instill their values in their youngsters while strengthening the communities in which those children live. Volunteering also provides a host of additional, potentially surprising benefits. For example, a 2003 study from researchers at the University of Texas found that taking part in helping one’s community lowers rates of depression and anxiety. In addition, research has indicated that adolescents who volunteer may perform better at school and take a more positive approach to education. Family-friendly volunteering opportunities abound, and the following are some ways that families can give back together.
• Feed the hungry: The role of charitable organizations that feed those in need was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic fallout of the pandemic was significant, as tens of millions of people lost their jobs and, subsequently, their ability to feed themselves and their families. Local food banks stepped in to feed those families, and organizations are always in need of volunteers to help prepare, deliver and serve food. Volunteering at a local food bank or soup kitchen is a great way for parents to show their children that they have a lot to be thankful for while instilling in them a sense of responsibility to community members in need.
• Create art: Art can be as beneficial to its creators as it is for those who appreciate it. That’s especially so for children in relation to their development. According to a report from Americans for the Arts, art education strengthens problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Art also encourages kids to innovate, a benefit that will pay dividends throughout their lives. Art also is fun to create, and parents can turn kids’ natural inclination toward fun and creativity into a way to give back to their communities. The New Jersey-based organization Color A Smile distributes cheerful drawings to senior citizens and overseas troops, among others. Adults and children can volunteer to bring smiles to the faces of strangers, all the while reaping the many benefits of engaging in art projects.
• Nature clean-up: Local park and beach clean-ups help to keep the great outdoors pristine and pollution-free. Such clean-ups, which are a fun way to get outdoors, also provide a great opportunity for parents to teach children about the environment and the importance of protecting it.
Whether it’s helping those in need, exploring one’s inner artist or helping keep local parks and beaches clean, the opportunities for families to give back together are numerous.