Compassion, empathy and service to others—these are only a few of the values volunteering on a regular basis can teach us. Volunteering shows us our own privilege and how we can use it to help those less fortunate than we are. For many people, volunteering isn’t a part of our lives until a school course requires it for credit, encouraging us to go “be a part of the community.”
These are great outlets and programs, but what if we started instilling these volunteering values at a younger age? Despite their age, children can have a powerful impact in the community, if only we encourage them to do so. Here are four reasons kids should start volunteering young.
1. Volunteering teaches valuable life skills.
First and foremost, volunteering teaches children valuable life skills, such as working with others and following directions. It gives kids a chance to get outside of the classroom and put their knowledge into real-life work.
Consider this: collecting food for a local shelter could be a chance for your child to learn how to organize materials by type, expiration date or brand name. Cleaning up garbage in a park can show them the value of working as a team, and how to efficiently come together to get an important job done. Whether it’s working with animals, a local shelter or a national cause, volunteering gives your child the chance to learn important life-lessons in a safe environment.
2. Volunteering encourages empathy.
Working with others also gives children the chance to develop their empathy and compassion. Oftentimes, kids grow up in a specific world and aren’t exposed to much else. Volunteering, however, gives children the chance to meet and interact with others who are different—and often times less fortunate—than themselves.
Through volunteering opportunities, kids have the chance to see the world from a different lens and recognize their own circumstantial privileges. What better way for children to learn empathy, than to experience it firsthand?
3. Volunteering gives a voice to young people.
According to Scholarship America, the current largest demographic of volunteers is adults ages 35-54. By contrast, just one in five Americans between the ages of 16-24 reported spending any time volunteering. However, according to a 2012 study by DoSomething.org, the most important determining factor for youth volunteering was having friends who also volunteered.
When your child volunteers, it gives a voice to young people, establishing a network between younger and older generations to work together. Kids have the chance to get involved and make their opinions heard. And when just one child starts volunteering, it acts as a catalyst for other youth to be active in the community as well.
4. Volunteering can help with college.
Finally, and of course: volunteering is a great boost when it comes to college. Volunteering experience on college applications shows schools your child is a valued member of society who contributes to his or her community. Starting kids on the volunteering track at a young age gives them the chance to be even more involved, get more background experience for their resume and establish personal connections for potential recommendation letters.
Volunteering is more than just an activity for high school or college students earning credit; it’s a chance for children to get involved at a young age. Giving back teaches life skills and intense empathy, while giving children a voice in the community and preparing them for college.
If you want your child to start on the right path for an altruistic lifestyle, help them get involved in their community and start volunteering today.