Youth Volunteers

If you are a mom who makes time in her busy schedule to volunteer, whether at your child's school, your church, or in other community organizations, your child sees the example of volunteering as a part of your philanthropy. That's a great thing! Following that example, your child may want to volunteer themselves. While that may add some additional complexity to your schedule, it's a schedule adjustment that is very much worth it.

Tween girl painting

Giving time and effort is just one ways individuals and families engage in philanthropy, and many community organizations couldn't survive without that volunteerism. You may not have thought about it before, but kids, even young kids, can volunteer their time.

Depending on your child's age, volunteering time in the community could be part of a family effort, or it could be completely self-starting. It could be easy to arrange, or a bit of a logistical (or appropriateness) challenge. It's almost always worth the effort, however.

Appropriate organizations and roles

While many organizations are willing to take on youth volunteers, some are not. If your child expresses an interest in volunteering, ask your child what kind of an organization they think they would like to volunteer with, and what they think volunteering means. From there you and your child can contact organization about any age minimums for volunteers, and what kind of volunteers they need.

Remember that volunteering is about helping the organization, and you need to be willing to help with what they need, not just with what you or your child thinks they want to do.

For example, if your child wants to volunteer working at the local animal shelter, he or she may think that playing with the animals constitutes appropriate volunteering, but maybe the shelter needs someone to do the more mundane task of dishing out food for the animals -- something that perhaps hold less appeal, or maybe isn't appropriate for your child's age. You and you child need to understand that the first priority of volunteering is helping the organization in just the way they need help -- but likely the more "fun" part could follow.

Where to start

How can you find legitimate volunteer opportunities in your area? The web to the rescue! Here are five places to get started in your search:

Appropriate time

Kids, especially kids on the younger side, generally can't volunteer for particularly long periods of time. While older kids may be able to put in two or three hours at a local senior center, younger kids can manage about an hour or so at a time.

Making sure that the volunteer opportunity is respectful of your child's age and development can go a long way to establishing first volunteering experiences as positive, and set the foundation for a lifetime of volunteerism.

Appropriate supervision

Any volunteer opportunity, no matter the organization or your child's age or role, needs to have an appropriate supervisory element. Just as with first jobs, kids need to be supervised as much for their own safety as anything else. As a parent, verifying that supervision is part of making sure the volunteer opportunity is appropriate.

The supervisor may be you in some cases, but in others, it's an organization staffer. Older kids may chafe at this supervision element, but since the greater goal is helping the organization, it's necessary to ensure the highest level of efficiency for volunteering.

No matter what challenges may present themselves when arranging volunteer opportunities for and with your child, they are almost always worth that time and effort. Giving time is a great way to give back to your community, even for the youngest members of your family.

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