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Raising a philanthropist: Volunteering tips for kids and teens

Volunteering is a great way to get kids of all ages more aware of the world in which they live. Get them involved in a position well suited to them with these simple tips.

Teens volunteering

Starting young

The best way to ensure kids are knowledgeable about the world and how they can contribute is by getting them volunteering at an early age. When your children are young, they won’t likely have many ideas about what possibilities exist, so it’s up to you to expose them to as many opportunities as you can. Kids can have fun with a variety of tasks, so don’t be afraid to test the waters with completely different types of charities. The next time your city has a big race, sign up as a mother-and-child pair. The volunteer coordinators will pair you up to do such tasks as handing out water and Gatorade to the runners. Also consider volunteering at a local retirement home, where your little one can learn more about the stories of older generations. And if your child’s school or one of his extracurricular activities is fundraising, get them excited about the cause and encourage them to work toward a particular fundraising goal.

Older children

Kids aged 11–14 will likely have a better idea of what they’re interested in but may not know how to go about it. By asking a few key questions, you can get a better sense of what your child wants to do. Is there something in particular he or she cares about (such as animals, cancer, mental health, history, fitness, poverty, etc.)? This will help determine what kind of charity to look for. You can then find out what kind of work she wants to do. Does she want to be active and hands-on? Or would fundraising or working in the office be of more interest? Pinpointing what your child truly wants to do will help ensure they aren’t disappointed by what they choose and can commit to it 100 per cent for a long time to come.

Teens taking charge

Whether you’ve raised your child as a volunteer or they’re getting into it for school purposes, many teens are active volunteers. When you think of volunteering, chances are you have a certain idea of what it means, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s important to recognize that your child may have different plans for the type of volunteering they want to do. While you may feel volunteering at the local homeless shelter is most worthwhile, your teen may be more drawn to coaching kids’ sports teams or helping out with a disease awareness organization. Although it’s natural for you to want your child to love the same charities you do, pressuring them toward your passions will likely do more harm than good and may turn them off from volunteering altogether. Instead, ask questions about what they would be doing for their charity of choice and why they’re passionate about it. Hearing your child talk about it will likely bring into perspective why they have chosen it and will let them know they can share what they learn there with you. Talking about it will also help keep your teen passionate about what they’re doing and ensure they have a positive experience, which will keep them volunteering for life.

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